Here’s a tip: If you’re going to jail for five years, maybe don’t leave the key codes to nearly $60 million worth of bitcoins in the house you rent. Your landlord might throw all your stuff out when he finds a new tenant.
Irish police have come to believe that pot dealer Clifton Collins learned that the hard way, the Irish Times reported on Feb 21.
Collins told the Garda’s Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) that the 6,000 bitcoins they have seized are worthless because the private codes to the dozen online wallets they are stored in was printed on a piece of paper that has been lost. Collins claims he hid the codes in the aluminum cap of a fishing rod case he left behind in his County Galway home after he was convicted in 2017.
The landlord told the Garda that remembered the rod case among Collins’ personal belongings that were sent to the dump. Workers who cleared the place out and others who received it at the dump also told the CAB they remember seeing the rod case, the newspaper reported. That dump’s garbage is regularly shipped to Germany and China for incineration.
“Garda believe he has genuinely lost the codes for the accounts, which had not been accessed for a year before he came to the attention of the Garda,” the Irish Times said. So, the CAB has come to accept that what would have been the largest seizure in its 25-years history is truly beyond reach.
Careless or crafty?
Of course, the same was said about the $160 million “lost” when 30-year-old QuadrigaCX founder Gerald Cotten allegedly died in India on Dec. 9, 2019, taking the keys to the Canadian exchange’s cold storage wallets to the grave. However, bankruptcy trustee Ernst & Young found the wallets had already been emptied, and attorneys representing QuadrigaCX depositors want his body exhumed and identified.
In Collins’ case, there was a break-in before the house was cleaned out. And apparently, he didn’t consider the possibility of a fire and keep another printout somewhere else. On the other hand, Collins wasn’t exactly a criminal mastermind.
He didn’t sell $60 million worth of marijuana. He just bought bitcoins with some of his ill-gotten gains in late 2011 and early 2012, the Irish Times said. That would have put his cost per bitcoin somewhere in the $2 to $30 range. By 2017, when he was arrested, the price was north of $10,000—which he knew as he hired someone to help him split it into 12 digital wallets containing 500 bitcoins each to protect against exchange hacks, according to the report.
However, Collins kept on selling marijuana in Farnaught, Cornamona, County Galway, despite having around $60 million worth of crypto at a time when authorities new virtually nothing about how to track it.
Not that he was doing too badly. The CAB was able to seize roughly $1.6 million in smaller bitcoin wallets and €100,000 (about $108,000) in cash.
For reference, Farnaught is about 35 miles from the city of Galway, and 160 miles from Dublin. The average temperature ranges from 41 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit. In other words, while it’s picturesque, Farnaught is neither the big city nor the Caribbean.
It’ll be interesting to see where Collins moves after he’s released in 2022.