In the course of taking down online drug supermarket Silk Road and arresting its alleged founder once known only as “Dread Pirate Roberts,” the Federal Bureau of Investigation also laid stake to history’s largest seizure of Bitcoin, the anonymous digital currency used by Silk Road customers to purchase drugs and other illicit goods. But now the Bitcoin community is fighting back in its own pesky way.
Early on Friday, a member of Reddit’s Bitcoin community shared a link to the FBI’s public Bitcoin address to which some 27,000 Bitcoin – about $3.75 million, at current exchange rates – seized from Silk Road’s bank were deposited over the past few days. Soon after, Bitcoin users began sending the FBI small fractions of Bitcoin along with public comments to the federal law enforcement agency.
A number of the comments include links to news articles about the Central Intelligence Agency supporting the family of drug lords in Afghanistan or helping Contras traffic cocaine in the U.S. A few railed against drug prohibition, while others simply made fart jokes. Some have expressed support for Ross William Ulbricht, the 29-year-old accused of running Silk Road and hiring hitmen to kill two people. And a handful have even used the opportunity to promote their causes and small businesses.
“Tired of donut-eating stereotypes? Buy baklava,” wrote one user, who included a link to George’s Famous Baklava, where customers can order the rich confection online using Bitcoin.
The first prank message sent to the FBI’s Bitcoin address was spelled out in the amount of Bitcoin (BTC) sent – 0.1337 BTC, which reads “leet” in the age-old hacker language leetspeak. Another clever entry spelled 0.08008, which any third grader can decipher.
FBI agents began transferring Bitcoin in amounts as large as 1,000 BTC on October 2, the day the agency seized Silk Road. At the time of this writing, the FBI’s Bitcoin address has received 122 transactions, nearly 30 of which apparently come from pranksters.
One question many in the Silk Road community have asked is whether the FBI would return the Bitcoin they lost in the raid. But an agency spokeswoman, speaking with Forbes, quickly laughed off the idea.
“There is not likely to be retribution in this case,” she said. “If they’re knowingly buying something illegal, they can’t get their money back.”
Silk Road is said to have collected a total revenue of 9.5 million Bitcoin ($1.2 billion) over its more than two years of operation – a massive number, considering that, as Quartz reports, there are only 11.5 million Bitcoin in existence. Of that 9.5 million BTC, Ulbrict allegedly pocketed as much as $80 million worth in Bitcoin as commission.
The FBI says it expects to liquidate its Bitcoin holdings once the case against Silk Road and Ulbricht has concluded.