US to return $154 million stolen and converted to Bitcoins to Sony

US to return $154 million stolen and converted to Bitcoins to Sony
Photo Credit: Pixabay
24 Dec, 2021

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has said it will return over $154 million that was stolen and converted into Bitcoins by one of the employees of Sony Life, a subsidiary company of Sony Corporation.  

The employee had falsified transaction instructions and transferred the amount into a California-based bank account in his name. He later converted it into 3,879.16 Bitcoins, which is currently valued at $198 million. The stolen funds in the form of Bitcoins were seized by the US law enforcement agencies on December 1 based on an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). In addition to getting support from Sony and Citibank for the investigation, the FBI was also assisted by Japan’s National Police Agency, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department and a few other Japanese agencies. 

DOJ said the FBI with support from these agencies was able to acquire the private key that was required to access the Bitcoin address. A private key is a randomly generated combination of letters and numbers used to lock the virtual wallet that holds the cryptos owned by its owner.   

Also read: Bitcoin achieves new feat: 90% of 21 mn tokens have been mined already

“Criminals should take note: You cannot rely on cryptocurrency to hide your ill-gotten gains from law enforcement,” Randy Grossman, acting US Attorney said in a statement.  

The anonymity that cryptos and crypto transactions provide have made them very popular with cybercriminals. Since the transactions are not controlled by a bank, acquiring funds that cannot be traced becomes a lot easier.  

Despite these challenges, law enforcement agencies in the US have had enormous success in cases where cryptos are involved. For instance, in June, the Department of Justice had seized 63.7 Bitcoin (currently valued at $ 3.2 million) that was paid by Colonial Pipeline to Russia backed Darkside ransomware group.  

The criminal investigation unit of the US Internal Revenue Service also seized $3.5 billion in cryptocurrency during its many investigations in the last year, reported NBC News in November.

Cryptos seized by US agencies are later auctioned off. However, as per a new report, the timing of these auctions are often poor and have cost agencies millions of dollars they could have made. For instance, the 500 Bitcoins bought by Riot Blockchain in 2018 for $5 million from one such auction would have fetched the agency $25 million. The increase in value of sold Bitcoin can be attributed to the huge surge in the price of the crypto, especially in the 18 months. The price of Bitcoin had soared to an all-time high of $65,000 in October. It’s currently priced at $51,464.90.