Federal authorities in Ohio have sold bitcoin seized in 2018 during a court case involving the sale of fake documents.
Due to the rising price of bitcoin, the initial value at the time of the seizure was $2.88 million. The sale value was instead $19.23 million, almost ten times the original value. However, the manner in which the seized bitcoin were sold has not been disclosed.
The case of the seized bitcoin in Ohio
The case dates back to 2018 and involves a 37-year-old man from Toledo (Ohio) who created a website where he sold fake identity documents, paid for in bitcoin. The man has already pleaded guilty and was also sentenced to 24 months in prison.
The system was well established: through the website, the person ordering the document sent the photo and the information he wanted to see on the document. The payment was made in bitcoin and the documents (driving licence and identity card) were delivered by post.
According to Bitcoin.com, the investigation started in 2015 when the first fake documents were found. After months of investigation, the authorities discovered who was running the website also due to the fact that the return address of the envelopes containing the fake documents was located in the city of Loreto.
The authorities then reached the home of the person responsible and at the same time managed to seize 500 bitcoin, which were then sold three years later.
The proceeds of the sale became directly part of the U.S. Treasury.
Cases of seized bitcoin
Due to its nature, it is difficult to achieve a bitcoin seizure unless the holder shares its private keys or seed.
For example, in the Silk Road case, when $1 billion worth of bitcoin were seized, it was later clarified that someone known as “individual x” had shared how to access the “treasury”.
An entirely different precedent occurred in Germany. In that case, €50 million was seized, but the authorities were unable to get hold of the BTC precisely because the holder refused to share his private keys.
In any case, these news stories show that it is possible, albeit difficult, for law enforcement authorities to get hold of bitcoin from illicit activities.