Alleged underground drug-trade website proprietor Ross Ulbricht, a.k.a. Dread Pirate Roberts of The Silk Road, is saying in a new court filing that the federal government owes him his 144,336 bitcoins back. At the time, that stash was valued at about $30 million USD, but has since shot up over three times to about $95 - 100 million.
Bitcoin, the online currency we only barely understand, are exceedingly valuable in the current market, and Ulbricht is saying that he's owed the currency back because it's not subject to current civil forfeiture rules, as they're written. This should get interesting, legally, and is starting to sound like fodder for an episode of The Good Wife already.
Ulbricht was living in San Francisco when he was nabbed by the FBI back in October, and he's now accused of being the mastermind and proprietor behind the now defunct online black market called The Silk Road. At the time, Ulbricht's roommate told investigators he believed Ulbricht was making a living trading Bitcoin.
Prosecutors have evidence that Ulbricht ordered the executions of six different people over the course of Silk Road's life, all related originally to an unidentified blackmailer who threatened to reveal the identities of some hundreds of thousands of Silk Road users. They also have evidence Ulbricht paid upwards of $700,000 in Bitcoin for these murders, and that he consorted with Hell's Angels for some of his drug trade.
Update: A previous version of this story estimated Ulbricht's 144,336 bitcoins were valued at around $30 million. That number was reported at the time of his arrest in October. As reporter Max Cherney points out today, their value has since skyrocketed as the cryptocurrency has gained popularity. Current estimates via exchange calculators Preev.com and Bitcoinity.org put their value anywhere from $94 to $100 million.