from the this-could-get-interesting dept
On Thursday, Ward began the process of retaining a lawyer to file a claim for what he says were 100 bitcoins–worth around $95,000 at current exchange rates–seized by the FBI in the takedown of the Silk Road online black market for drugs last October. Unlike most of Silk Road’s sellers, Ward says he earned his bitcoins through entirely legal means, offering the same merchandise that he advertises on the public Internet from his head shop Planet Pluto in Devon, England.It turns out that soon after the Silk Road takedown, he too was arrested in the UK, having all of his electronics seized. It likely complicates matters that he also had some cocaine and marijuana at his home when he was arrested. However, he insists that nothing he sold online was illegal, and he has been released on bail and not charged with any crimes.
“I’m probably in a unique position in that I can prove my coins came from selling legal items,” says Ward, who argues his wares included only drug accessories and UK-legal substances like salvia and the morphine-like kratom. “I sold on Silk Road because it had a large user base that matched my target customers. Where better to sell king-size rolling papers?”
The legal issues here will get complicated fast, made much more complicated by the mess that is the US's seizure and forfeiture laws, a set of laws that are both exceptionally complicated and regularly prone to abuse by law enforcement -- effectively allowing them to steal whatever they want at will, and then sell off to help their agency/police department profit in the process.
That said, in the mess of those laws, there are some very specific things that law enforcement needs to do in order to keep the property they seize and forfeit, and law enforcement isn't always known for following those specific rules. I imagine that the DOJ's response will be to try to quickly dismiss any such case, noting that anything remotely touching Silk Road is somehow tainted and associated with a criminal act, but that may be harder to back up in court if it ever gets that far.