Ross Ulbricht, the 29-year-old alleged mastermind behind the online drug marketplace Silk Road, still maintains his innocence. But those 173,000 Bitcoins the FBI confiscated as assets believed to have been used to facilitate money laundering and six failed murder-for-hire attempts… yeah, those are his and should be returned to him.
Ulbricht recently filed legal papers in a Manhattan federal court suggesting he has an interest as owner of the Bitcoins which are valued at $33.6 million as of writing. He believes the virtual currency isn’t subject to seizure under federal forfeiture laws and therefore should be returned to him.
It’s a very creative and cutting edge argument, according to white-collar lawyer and former Brooklyn assistant US attorney Daniel Wenner. It is possible that a judge could rule that Bitcoins aren’t considered property that can be seized in a criminal prosecution although Wenner said he would be stunned if a judge sided with Ulbricht.
Former federal prosecutor Jeffrey Alberts essentially echoed those sentiments, saying the alleged mastermind would have a tough time arguing his point because anything of value can be seized in a money-laundering case. Intellectual property and even domain names have been seized in the past so there’s no reason think Bitcoins wouldn’t qualify, he said.
Interestingly enough, he didn’t elaborate on how exactly he came into ownership of so many coins, but I digress. Either way, it classifies as the largest Bitcoin forfeiture in US history and it’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out in court.