The 69,000 seized bitcoins once belonged to Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht, who was convicted in 2015 of distributing narcotics and money laundering and sentenced to life in prison. The Justice Department said the bitcoins had been stolen from him in 2012 and 2013 by a hacker who liquidated some of the coins but left most sitting untouched for years in a digital wallet.
Indeed, on Tuesday night, when most of the U.S. was watching election results, bitcoiners noticed the single transaction that moved $1 billion from one wallet to another—the Justice Department seizure—and were speculating about who executed such a large move. Mr. Robinson said he suspected at that time that they were connected to Silk Road, but it hadn’t immediately been clear who was responsible. Now he knows. “The self-control of this hacker to not touch them for several years is absolutely incredible,” Mr. Robinson said. “Can you imagine?”