Nov. 5 (UPI) -- Federal authorities said Thursday they have seized $1 billion worth of bitcoin connected to the shuttered criminal marketplace Silk Road, the largest haul of cryptocurrency connected to crime in the Justice Department's history.
The department said the dark web marketplace involved sales of drugs and other illegal products, purchased with bitcoin. Silk Road was shut down by federal law enforcement in 2013 and founder Ross Ulbricht was sentenced to two life terms.
Prosecutors said law enforcement officers on Tuesday seized bitcoin transactions involving Silk Road transactions and an unidentified user that ultimately proved to be worth more than $1 billion.
Many transfers were observed that were each worth thousands of dollars in bitcoin, they noted.
"This pattern of withdrawals and the amount that was withdrawn was not typical for a Silk Road user. Specifically, a review of other withdrawals from Silk Road revealed bitcoin amounts that were mostly less than 100 bitcoin," prosecutors said in the complaint.
Prosecutors said a hacker, identified in court documents as "Individual X," gained access to Silk Road and stole cryptocurrency from the site. Over the course of the investigation, the person eventually signed a consent decree to turn over the cryptocurrency to authorities.
"Silk Road was the most notorious online criminal marketplace of its day," U.S. Attorney David Anderson, of the Northern District of California, said in a civil complaint.
"The successful prosecution of Silk Road's founder in 2015 left open a billion-dollar question. Where did the money go?
"$1 billion of these criminal proceeds are now in the United States' possession."
The value of one bitcoin has risen recently to more than $15,000, its highest valuation since January 2018.