Federal authorities disclosed in new court documents that they seized nearly $29 million in virtual currency from the operator of an underground website the FBI describes as “a sprawling black market bazaar,” reports the Christian Science Monitor. Ross Ulbricht, a currency trader in San Francisco, was arrested Oct. 1 for allegedly creating and operating the Silk Road website. He was charged with narcotics trafficking, money laundering, computer hacking, and soliciting a murder-for-hire.
Ulbricht denied he was the Silk Road operator under the online name Dread Pirate Roberts. He is awaiting extradition to New York City. The arrest illustrates the growing presence of Bitcoin, an online virtual currency that is recognized by very few governments and is operated via a mobile app or computer program that creates a virtual “wallet” people can use to send and receive the currency. The FBI says it seized 144,336 bitcoins from Ulbricht. According to Forbes, it is the largest seizure of bitcoins to date. Te website bitcoin.org says the value of all bitcoins in circulation by the end of August 2013 exceeded $1.5 billion.