US attorneys in Utah prosecuting a multimillion-dollar opioid drug ring are moving quickly to sell seized bitcoin that has exploded in value to about $8.5 million since the alleged ringleader's arrest a year ago. The US Attorney's Office for Utah cites the digital currency's volatility in court documents pressing for the sale. The bitcoin cache was worth less than $500,000 when Aaron Shamo was arrested on drug charges, but the value of the digital currency has skyrocketed since then, the AP reports. For federal prosecutors in Utah, sales of seized assets like cars are routine, but bitcoin, which is prone to dizzying swings in value, is new territory, spokeswoman Melodie Rydalch says.
Shamo is accused of selling pills containing the powerful opioid fentanyl on the dark web—an area of the internet often used for illegal activity—to thousands of people all over the US, at one point raking in $2.8 million in less than a year. The 500,000-pill bust ranked among the largest of its kind in the country, and authorities also found $1 million of cash stuffed into trash bags. Shamo has pleaded not guilty to a dozen charges. The proceeds of the bitcoin sale will be held until the case is resolved, and then decisions will be made about where the money goes, Rydalch says. Defense attorney Greg Skordas is not contesting the sale of his client's bitcoins.