Jimmy Zhong, initially a victim of a cryptocurrency theft, has emerged as the criminal mastermind behind one of the most colossal bitcoin thefts in history, ending the mystery of a $3 billion theft from the dark web’s infamous marketplace, Silk Road.
CNBC reports that in the college town of Athens, Georgia, a 911 call in March 2019 marked the beginning of an extraordinary investigation. Jimmy Zhong, a 28-year-old University of Georgia alum and a known party enthusiast, reported the theft cryptocurrency worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Little did he know, this call would unravel a decade-long mystery, exposing one of the most significant crimes in the cryptocurrency era.
Zhong was a computer expert with a robust digital home surveillance system. His emergency call led investigators on a trail back to the earliest days of Bitcoin, uncovering a realm where the lines between heroes and villains blurred. Zhong’s life, filled with lavish parties, luxury, and a seemingly endless flow of money, hid a darker truth. He was living a life of opulence without a visible source of income, claiming to have mined thousands of bitcoins in the technology’s early days.
The investigation took a dramatic turn when a small mistake revealed a monumental secret. Zhong’s name surfaced in a transaction linked to 50,000 bitcoins stolen from Silk Road, a dark web marketplace, in 2012. This discovery led to a meticulous operation by the IRS Criminal Investigation unit, unveiling Zhong as not just a victim, but a pivotal figure in the cryptocurrency saga.
Over the years, the value of the bitcoin stolen by the Silk Road hacker had soared to more than $3 billion, according to court documents. Investigators could track the location of the currency on the blockchain, which is a public ledger of all transactions. But they couldn’t see the identity of the new owner of the funds. So they watched and waited for years as the hacker transferred funds from account to account, peeled some away, and pushed some of it through crypto “mixers” designed to obscure the source of the money.
Finally, Chainalysis, a blockchain analytics company that was tracing the digital wallets containing the stolen Silk Road assets, saw the hacker made a tiny mistake. He transferred around $800 worth to a crypto exchange that followed established banking rules, including so-called know your customer processes, requiring real names and addresses of account holders.
The account was registered in Zhong’s name. The transaction took place in September 2019, six months after Zhong’s 911 call to the local police.
After a long and exhaustive investigation by law enforcement agents and the IRS, charges were brought against Zhong over his illicit riches. He pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges and was sentences to a year and a day in jail.
Read more at CNBC here.
Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship.