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US Government can Seize Alleged Alphabay Owner’s Assets, Judge Rules
U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheila K. Oberto ruled in a recent memo that the United States federal government had completed all necessary steps required to take control of the millions of dollars in assets seized from the alleged owner and creator of Alphabay. The Eastern District of California Magistrate Judge wrote that the United States government had a right to millions in cryptocurrency, a Lamborghini, a BMW motorcycle, and other items the alleged Alphabay owner had purchased with money earned through his darknet market.
In July 2017, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Royal Thai Place arrested Alexandre Cazes aka alpha02, for running the infamous Alphabay darknet market. According to an indictment, Cazes had created Alphabay in 2014 to serve as the largest dark web market that had ever existed. His work paid off in a major way; at the time of his arrest, the police counted more than eight million dollars in assets on Cazes’ property in Thailand, on his computer, or parked in his driveway.
The Royal Thai Police, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, later identified a document on one of Cazes’ computers titled “Total Net Worth.” That document itemized cryptocurrency wallets, houses, bank accounts, cars, and other assets that totalled $23,033,975 in value. According to the 27-page ruling by Magistrate Judge Sheila K. Oberto, United States law enforcement have identified the assets listed in the document and have conducted their own itemization of the assets. Law enforcement calculated Cazes’ holdings and came up with a figure that largely matched the total figure Cazes had listed in his own document.
The assets included property, bank accounts, and vehicles owned by Sunisa Thapsuwan (Cazes), the unindicted wife of Alexandre Cazes. Although Cazes stored assets at many banks in Thailand, the United States government claimed that Sunisa Thapsuwan helped Cazes store money in banks under her name. They claimed that the money in Sunisa Thapsuwan’s accounts at Bangkok Bank, Kasikorn Bank, and Siam Commercial Bank came from Cazes’ alleged criminal enterprise. They also claimed that Sunisa Thapsuwan’s Mini Cooper valued at $81,000 came from money earned as the owner of Alphabay. Sunisa Thapsuwan was one of the 10 claimants identified in the forfeiture documents. She wanted to keep the house Cazes had purchased for her parents in Thailand.
Cazes held accounts at Bangkok Bank, Bank of Ayudhya (Krungsri), Kasikorn Bank, Siam Commercial Bank, Bank Alpinum AG, and many others in various countries. A significant portion of his assets were stored in cryptocurrency wallets. He had thousands of Bitcoin, tens of thousands of Monero, roughly 10,000 Ethereum, and thousands of Zcash. The government moved the cryptocurrency from wallets in Cazes’ control to wallets controlled by the United States government. At the time of the seizure, the assets in known cryptocurrency wallets amounted to the equivalent of almost nine million United States dollars.
The government also claimed a Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 valued at almost one million dollars, a Porsche Panamera S valued at $292,957, and a BMW motorcycle worth $21,000. The Lamborghini had “Tor” on the license plate. The Magistrate Judge wrote that the vehicles were appraised at such a high price due to the fact that Cazes had purchased them in Thailand. They would have cost Cazes far less if he had purchased them in the United States or Canada.
In addition to the vehicles, the United States government claimed Cazes’ properties in Thailand, Antigua and Barbuda, and in Cyprus. Evidence such as wire transfers from various bank accounts proved that Cazes had purchased properties in Antigua and Cyprus through the “citizenship by investment” program in two different countries. One of the houses was valued at two million dollars. His wire transfers included instructions to use the money to open an application for a specific property in Cyprus.
As part of the government’s quest to obtain anything Cazes ever touched, they mailed copies of the criminal complaint and criminal forfeiture documents to Cazes’ mother, father, wife, and several companies he had created in an alleged effort to conceal his assets from authorities. Claimants must file an objection within 14 days of the initial filing date of The Magistrate Judge’s ruling.