Over $1B worth of stolen Bitcoin found in popcorn tin

A bunch of bitcoin in a noose.
(Image credit: Bitcoin-schweiz, Pixabay)
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This could be my strong peasant heritage talking, but having a little cash squirrelled away for emergencies is always a good plan. A few bills stashed around the house in sock drawers, the back of a freezer, and in old food tins is fairly common practice for those of us who are ever ready for the proverbial rainy day. Making sure we'll be covered for a few essentials like some emergency food if we ever need is all I've ever been able to spare as far as hidden house money goes, and as it turns out my meagre funds are severely rookie numbers.

As reported by BBC News (opens in new tab), $3.36bn USD worth of stolen Bitcoin was seized by the police from one man's home in Georgia last year. The funds were found on devices stored all over his house, which included a safe hidden under the floor, and a good old popcorn tin. According to the US authorities, the net worth made it the second largest seizure in history. That's a Noah's Ark level of preparation for a rainy day.

The home belonged to James Zhong, who pleaded guilty to using a flaw in the now defunct darknet website Silk Road's payment system to steal the money. These are websites that are generally speaking dealing with illicit substances like drugs and other services, and require specific know-how to get to. 

Sites like these were often early adopters of crypto currency payments thanks to the promise of further anonymity, so it's no surprise to see names like Silk Road cropping up. Especially when it comes to crypto crime, but lately, scam sites are probably the biggest problems (opens in new tab) or you can just use malware. (opens in new tab)

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Zhong committed the crime back in September 2012, when he set up multiple accounts on the website and deposited small amounts of Bitcoin. He then used the exploit to withdraw large sums of Bitcoin quickly from the website. These were then apparently stored in weird places around his home on devices and drives, alongside over $600,000 USD worth of cold hard cash.

For many years the over 50,000 Bitcoin stolen had seemed to just disappear into the ether. While it may only be worth about $1.1bn USD now as opposed to $3.36, that's still a huge chunk of crypto to just stop existing for nearly ten years, which became a bit of a mystery.

While the authorities aren't revealing exactly how they found the money, it's said that cryptocurrency tracking techniques were used to track down the haul. While it might have taken ten years to get to the bottom of it, seeing that money recovered might be a bit of a wake up call for other crypto criminals out there. Especially with Zhong looking to face up to 20 years in prison for his crime.

Hope Corrigan
Hardware Writer

Hope’s been writing about games for about a decade, starting out way back when on the Australian Nintendo fan site Vooks.net. Since then, she’s talked far too much about games and tech for publications such as Techlife, Byteside, IGN, and GameSpot. Of course there’s also here at PC Gamer, where she gets to indulge her inner hardware nerd with news and reviews. You can usually find Hope fawning over some art, tech, or likely a wonderful combination of them both and where relevant she’ll share them with you here. When she’s not writing about the amazing creations of others, she’s working on what she hopes will one day be her own. You can find her fictional chill out ambient far future sci-fi radio show/album/listening experience podcast (opens in new tab) right here.

No, she’s not kidding.