An Ohio man has pleaded guilty to stealing 712 bitcoins that were “seized” by the US government in another criminal case. He agreed to forfeit some bitcoin, ether and dogecoin as part of his plea. “Due to increased market value, the total value of these forfeitable properties exceeds $12 million,” the US Department of Justice (DOJ) said.
US man stole his brother’s bitcoin
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Friday that 31-year-old Gary James Harmon of Ohio pleaded guilty to “unlawfully stealing” bitcoin that was “seized” by the federal government in his brother’s ongoing criminal case. The DOJ described:
Harmon was convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice for illegally acquiring more than 712 bitcoins, which were seized by law enforcement and should be forfeited in the pending prosecution of Larry Harmon.
As part of his plea, Gary Harmon agreed to forfeit “cryptocurrency and other assets derived from the fraudulent proceeds, including 647.41 bitcoin (BTC), 2.14 ethereum (ETH) and 17,404,400.64 dogecoin (DOGE). “Due to increased market prices, the total value of these confiscated properties exceeds $12 million.”
Stolen “captured” Bitcoin
The stolen bitcoin was stored in a Trezor hardware wallet seized by the federal government in connection with the February 2020 arrest of Larry Harmon. The device was being held at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) evidence storage facility. Federal authorities had not seized control of the coins because of the device’s sophisticated security, the DOJ explained.
“Larry Harmon pleaded guilty in August 2021 to money laundering conspiracy in connection with his operation of Helix, a darknet-based cryptocurrency money laundering service known as a ‘mixer’ or ‘tumbler,'” the DOJ detailed:
Harmon later admitted that Helix laundered more than 350,000 bitcoins worth more than $300 million in transactions on behalf of clients, with the largest volume coming from darknet markets.
As part of his arrest, law enforcement seized various assets, including a hardware wallet that contained the illicit proceeds of his Helix operation.
However, while the government was still trying to gain access to the seized bitcoin, Gary Harmon used his brother’s credentials to transfer more than 712 BTC, worth about $4.8 million at the time, from his brother’s seized device in April. 2020. He then laundered the proceeds through two online mixers before using them to fund his own expenses, the DOJ described.
The Department of Justice noted in the Gary Harmon case:
The wire fraud charge carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison; the obstruction of justice charge carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
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