Asset seizure is managed in the US by its Marshals Service, taking over from the Department of Justice during or after the adjudication of a case. The theory holds property derived from illegal activity should not be allowed to benefit criminals, wrongdoers ultimately, especially when there is a victim involved.
It becomes a lot touchier when what are termed ‘victimless crimes’ emerge, as in many drug cases, and property is claimed by the government even still. In those cases, law enforcement agencies have been able to profit off such auctions. In fact, US Marshals are said to manage close to two and half billion dollars worth of assets in this regard.
And so it is with approximately 2,170 bitcoin set to be auctioned off this month. The coins were seized from a variety of sources: criminal, civil, administrative. To be eligible for the March 19th auction, “potential bidders must complete all registration requirements by noon EDT March 14,” a press release noted. “A $200,000 deposit is required to participate. Deposits will be returned to non-winning bidders.”
Registered bidders only will get a chance to make offers via email. Bitcoin will be served up in chunks or blocks: “two blocks of 500 bitcoins, 11 blocks of 100 bitcoins and one block of approximately 70 bitcoins,” for a total of 14 blocks. The winner will be contacted on the 19th. Right around $25 million is the expected haul, depending upon spot pricing, of course, and respective bids.
War On Drugs Includes Bitcoiners
The Marshals’ auction site lists 20 cases, presumably those from which the present loot of bitcoin derives: 15 of those (75%) are due to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Pound for pound, the DEA is one of the most controversial law enforcement agencies in the world, even among tough on crime hawks.
Bitcoin has been hot on the DEA’s radar since almost the decentralized currency’s inception. Indeed, it was the principal agency that went after Silk Road. Even one of its agents was eventually prosecuted for stealing bitcoin in conjunction with the case. And as recently as late last year the agency released a 128-page report, National Drug Threat Assessment, which mentioned bitcoin no less than 26 times, and nearly all of that in reference to it being an illicit means of finance.
This will be the second multi-million dollar bitcoin auction by the US Marshals in as many months. Almost exactly a month prior, the bureau announced it had collected something close to $30 million dollars after an auction of 3,600 bitcoin.