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Are Cryptocurrency Seizures the Future of Civil Forfeiture? New Jersey Announces Liquidation of Seized Bitcoin

pexels-karolina-grabowska-5980856-300x200Monmouth County, NJ, has declared the liquidation of Bitcoin assets that were seized in 2018 using asset forfeiture. The value of the cryptocurrency has tripled since the seizure; it was seized at $57,000 and is now worth $198,000, reports indicate.

According to press sources, the assets were seized from an illegal drug distribution bust in Long Branch. Officials reportedly determined that the Bitcoins were profits of illegal narcotics sales.

Law enforcement seizures involving cryptocurrencies are become more common in New Jersey. According to official reports, Monmouth County’s first cryptocurrency seizure occurred in 2017. In that case, authorities apprehended 16 suspects involved in defrauding over a dozen financial institutions. A man from Colt’s Neck was reportedly in possession of $200,000 in cryptocurrency assets at the time. The value of those assets has increased to well over $1.25 million, but they have reportedly not yet been liquidated.

In another case, New Jersey federal prosecutors announced a Monmouth County resident’s guilty plea for allegedly running an illegal cryptocurrency exchange. Prosecutors also recently received a guilty plea from a Camden County resident who purportedly hired a hitman to murder a teenager for $200,000 in Bitcoin.

The discovery of this new method of profiting from drug trafficking sales has called for innovations in law enforcement. Criminals, they say, are turning to cryptocurrency as a means to launder their dirty money. Hundreds of millions in illicit funds reportedly flowed through cryptocurrency wallets within the last year, allowing criminals to hide their money trail.

Cryptocurrency has made it more difficult for law enforcement to track dirty money, especially if the transactions are made using privacy-focused wallets that anonymize transfers and make following the money trail quite challenging. Just last year, an estimated 13% of criminal profits were reportedly laundered using Bitcoin.

Detection of criminal cryptocurrency transactions is an ongoing issue for law enforcement. The Bitcoin Manual has proposed several methods for law enforcement to investigate suspected criminal profits through cryptocurrency, starting with financial investigations of the suspect or suspects in question. Law enforcement will then need to accumulate all available information on finances tied to alleged criminal activity and asset distribution. They can use “red flag” indicator systems to receive notifications of suspicious financial activity.

Regardless of the technical difficulties faced when tracing the illicit use of cryptocurrency, it is still possible for law enforcement to seize digital assets tied to criminal profits. Currently, the most efficient method is to seize the private keys linked to a cryptocurrency wallet so police can access and confiscate its contents.

All that said, making cryptocurrency transactions is NOT illegal. If your digital assets have been seized by law enforcement, then you should immediately contact a civil asset forfeiture attorney. An attorney can help fight the seizure of your property and increase the chances of getting your assets back.

Nationwide Federal Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney

Has law enforcement taken your property using civil forfeiture? Contact Brian Silber, P.A. to set up a free initial consultation and get the assistance of a nationwide federal civil asset forfeiture attorney.

Source: 4.26.21 Bitcoin Seizure Makes 300% Profit for NJ County Years After Drug Bust.pdf

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