Judge gives the go-ahead to auction drug suspect’s bitcoins

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SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge has allowed the U.S. government to auction off vehicles and bitcoins belonging to a suspect in one of Utah’s largest-ever drug cases.

Aaron Shamo (image courtesy Salt Lake County Jail)

In a ruling issued earlier this week, U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball granted a request by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Utah to auction some of Aaron Shamo’s assets. Those included a number of bitcoins, worth about $8.5 million now.

Shamo’s bitcoins are sitting in a government wallet right now and his attorneys did not object to their sale. They were worth about a half-million when he was arrested last year.

“Due to the volatile market for cryptocurrencies, the BTC and BCH risk losing value during the pendency of the forfeiture proceedings,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.

Bitcoins are a digital alternative to currency created in 2009 by someone using an alias. The digital money works without a central bank, shared through peer-to-peer transactions and its market value swings wildly. Recently, bitcoins have exploded in value.

Shamo is among several people indicted in what federal prosecutors have alleged is one of Utah’s largest drug trafficking rings. He is accused of being one of the largest traders of the drug fentanyl, selling pills on the dark web — an area of the internet known for illegal activity.

Shamo is due back in court in February.

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