Cops Find Device Holding $3B In Stolen Bitcoin Stashed In A Popcorn Tin After 10-Year Investigation
A Georgia man faces up to 20 years in prison after more than $3 billion in stolen Bitcoin was found stashed in a popcorn tin at his home in what authorities call the second largest seizure of cryptocurrency.
James Zhong, 32, pleaded guilty on Friday to stealing the Bitcoin a decade ago from the illegal Silk Road marketplace, which the FBI shut down in 2013.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced this week that authorities raided Zhong’s Gainesville home in November 2021 where they found 50,676 Bitcoin with a value of $3.36 billion at the time.
The raid resulted in the second-largest seizure of cryptocurrency, following the $3.6 billion in stolen crypto linked to the 2016 hack of crypto exchange Bitfinex, but cryptocurrency has since dropped in value.
Bitcoin hit a two-year low of $15,632. Ether, the next largest cryptocurrency, extended losses on Wednesday to hit its lowest since July.
Zhong pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on February 22, 2023.
Lt. Shaun Barnett of the Athens, Georgia police department told media outlet Protos that Zhong called the police in 2019 to ‘report a burglary.’
Zhong was living in Athens, Georgia in 2019 when he called police and reported that he had many assets stolen, including ‘a lot of bitcoin,’ which was apparently grabbed the attention of the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) unit.
The cash was never recovered, nor was a suspect identified, but the burglary and amount of money reported stolen ‘raised a red flag with the IRS,’ Barnett said.
Following an investigation, a search warrant was served and the IRS-CI and Athens police department made an arrest in November of 2021.