Bitcoin Goes Hollywood And Barclays' Bitcoin Bet

The Silk Road case sounded like an HBO special as every detail unfolded.

And, soon, it could be a Blockbuster hit.

20th Century Fox and Cherin Entertainment selected Dennis Lehane to write the script, based on the Silk Road Case. (Do you think he will be paid in bitcoins?) Lehane is most known for writing "Shutter Island" and "Gone Baby Gone" — two flicks with plenty of scandal and plot twists. The Silk Road story is right up his alley.

That was among the details revealed by Katheryn Haun, Assistant U.S. Attorney and federal prosecutor at the Department of Justice in an interview with International Business Times. Haun is one of the prosecutors involved in taking down the Silk Road mastermind Ross Ulbricht, and helped set the framework for bitcoin money laundering in the Ripple case.

She gave the scoop about what it was like to be involved in the case — and why it was such an important moment for digital payments. While some have referred to the prosecutors as the "bad-ass crypto cops," Haun said she wasn't aware of that term.

Her fellow cybercrime IRS investigator Tigran Gambaryan confirmed what she meant.

"I'm not bitcoin police, I'm an investigator - whatever payment concerns an IRS investigator, that's what our expertise is. We have been doing this since the days of Al Capone. No matter what method a criminal uses we will find a way to track it down."

[bctt tweet="I'm not bitcoin police, I'm an investigator. ...We have been doing this since the days of Al Capone."]

While Huan couldn’t dish on the details about what went into catching the Dread Pirate Roberts and taking down the infamous Silk Road, she did speak about the two former federal investors who have entered guilty pleas for laundering bitcoins collected in the case. Carl Force, a former DEA officer, pleaded guilty in July to stealing $240,000 worth of bitcoin payments. But he's already going to recoup some of that money, as he's secured a movie deal with 20th Century Fox.

Shaun Bridges, the other ex-federal officer involved in the case, pleaded guilty to money laundering and obstruction of justice charges after he was accused of stealing $820,000 worth of bitcoin.

"We understand that movie deal is in the works, so the plot got more interesting you could say, after Force made his plea," Haun said.

"Fox got a good deal. [Force] is an interesting character," Gambaryan added.

As for the future of bitcoin — Blockbuster portrayal aside — Haun and Gambaryan shared a bit about what they think about bitcoin and bitcoin regulation: "We don't want special laws just for bitcoin; I don't want anything different from what I would get from a bank. These exchanges are financial institutions," Gambaryan said.

"We are not trying to say, 'pick on bitcoin', so you need lots of extra information, we just want enough to able to identify where illegal proceeds that we are trying to trace are going. For that to happen we do need the industry to work with us," he said.

But the challenges for the Feds won't ever likely go away — and they recognize that.

"I think just like the Internet, we saw this in the early days, there's the legitimate uses and the illegitimate uses and I think it's always going to be that way," Haun concluded.

It's only a matter of time before their tracking down another Dread Pirate Roberts and shutting down another illegal online marketplace. Even with its leader behind bars, the cult-like nature behind bitcoin and the Silk Road is surely going to spark another copycat.

Until then, we’ll just have to wait for the movie.

 Bitcoin Tracker Week 89

The Good, The Bad — The Top Bitcoin Stories Of The Week

What's In A (Bitcoin Criminal's) Name?

Speaking of convicted bitcoin criminals, Bridges (the ex-agent named above) has tried to shed his identity since being involved in the Silk Road case.

New reports show that Bridges had attempted to change his name and SSN during the time of the trial, but that left the judge worried he would be a flight risk. Bridges' lawyers had claimed that their client was attempting to change these details because he was worried about his name being released as part of the OPM data breach of employees' personal details.

But really — when is the last time someone whose information was compromised asked for a name and SSN number change? Seems like a bit of a stretch, even in this wacky case.

"The Email For Money": Blythe Masters Backs Blockchain

She's one of the most well- women on Wall Street. Blythe Masters, an economist and former executive at JPMorgan Chase, has become one of the blockchain's greatest supporters.

“You should be taking this technology as seriously as you should have been taking the development of the Internet in the early 1990s,” Masters told Bloomberg. "It’s analogous to email for money.”

She breaks down the blockchain and shares why she's put so much stock in the technology in the upcoming edition of Bloomberg Magazine — where she'll be prominently featured on the cover.

“You have front-end systems trading at warp speed, and nanoseconds of competitive advantage are being extracted, and yet the back end of Wall Street hasn’t been fundamentally overhauled in decades,” Masters said in the interview. “Firms are dealing with greater requirements for reporting, transparency, and dissemination of data. Costs have gone up and revenues have gone down. This technology really gets to the core of all those issues.”

Watch Out Bitcoin, UBS Eyes Own Virtual Currency

Bitcoin might soon have another competitor in the financial market.

Swiss Bank UBS is reportedly working on creating its own virtual currency to introduce into the mainstream financial ecosystem as a method for market transactions.

Compared to bitcoin, the Swiss bank says its “utility settlement coin,” would be integrated into traditional currencies and bank accounts — which may give it more support right off the bat. UBS' virtual currency, like bitcoin, would enable transactions to occur across financial platforms that rely on blockchain technology.

Barclays' Big Backing Of Bitcoin

For the past few months, Barclays’ name has been showing up in stories about bitcoin. And over the weekend, Barclays made it clear that it's not backing down on its support for the digital currency.

While Wall Street banks in the U.S. debate the merit of the currency, it appears Britain’s High Street bank is ready to take its commitment to bitcoin to the next level. Barclays has already been testing the digital currency in labs in London, but the bank says it's going to enable consumers to make charity donations using bitcoin.With the help of private partnerships, Barclays plans to use this as a testing ground to see bitcoin’s potential in the payments industry.

INTERPOL's Bitcoin Crime Battle

No matter how hard mainstream bitcoin enthusiasts work to give the digital currency a good name, there’s always going to be another bitcoin criminal to slander its reputation.

And with more transactions going online — bitcoin included — it’s getting harder to keep up with the pace of cybercrime. That’s why INTERPOL created an international anti-cybercrime center to develop its own digital currency to help battle crime that’s committed using cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.

Known as the INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI), which opened last month in Singapore, the facility marks the organization’s first foray into an official center to research cybersecurity issues. INTERPOL also plans to use its own technology to develop a digital currency to be used for testing purposes.

Keeping Bitcoin Businesses In Check

California has been one state in the U.S. that's been leading the crusade to regulate bitcoin. Now, the California Senate Appropriations Committee has taken that battle a bit further as it voted 6-1 to move forward with a licensing bill for bitcoin companies to abide by.

The bill includes a section that adds more reporting requirements so that bitcoin businesses are checking back up on an annual basis. The text reads: "The bill would authorize the commissioner to request reports and documents, to examine the provisional licensee, and gather information regarding the business and operations of provisional licensees. The bill would require reports and documents concerning the business and operations of provisional licensees to be kept confidential."

Is this the future for bitcoin regulation?

Developers Speak Out To Bitcoin Community

The bitcoin developers have spoken. And it came in the form of a public letter that was released this week. Here's a few points that the developers noted in their open letter to the rest of the bitcoin community:

  • "The bitcoin developer community is dedicated to the future of bitcoin, looks after the health of the network, strives for the highest standards of performance, and works to keep bitcoin secure on behalf of everyone."
  • "We have worked on bitcoin scaling for years while safeguarding the network’s core features of decentralization, security, and permission-less innovation. We’re committed to ensuring the largest possible number of users benefit from bitcoin, without eroding these fundamental values."
  • "There will be controversy from time to time, but bitcoin is a security-critical system with billions of dollars of users’ assets that a mistake could compromise. To mitigate potential existential risks, it behooves us all to take the time to evaluate proposals that have been put forward and agree on the best solutions via the consensus-building process."



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.