On June 12, the US Marshals Service announced the auction of 29,656.51306529 Bitcoins. They have been in the possession of the federal government since they were stolen through civil asset forfeiture from Ross Ulbricht upon his arrest in October 2013 on charges of narcotics trafficking conspiracy, computer hacking conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy for allegedly running the anonymous Internet marketplace Silk Road.
Registration for the auction begins on June 16 and ends on June 23, with bidding to take place on June 27. The Bitcoins are being sold in nine blocks of 3,000 BTC each, with a tenth block of 2,656.51306529 BTC. Bidders are required to send in a registration form, a copy of a government-issued photo ID, and a $200,000 USD deposit sent by wire transfer originating from a bank located within the United States. The winning bidders will be notified on June 30 and are to initiate a transfer to receive the Bitcoins by July 1.
If a private citizen were to behave in the same manner as the agents of the US Marshals Service toward Ulbricht's property, it would be possible to bring federal charges of robbery, receipt of stolen monies, transportation of stolen monies, and conspiracy to commit the aforementioned crimes. These crimes carry a maximum combined sentence of 52.5 years in prison and a fine of $750,000. But because the agents of the US Marshals Service are agents of the state, and the state has a monopoly on the enactment and enforcement of laws, they will face no punishment for this conduct.
Bitcoin exchange rates fell significantly in reaction to the news. The rate on Bitstamp dropped from $628.00 to a low of $550.00 before rebounding to $575.99 as of this writing. The rate on Bitfinex dropped from $639.30 to a low of $575.20 before rebounding to $599.10 as of this writing. The rate on BTC-e dropped from $629.00 to a low of $560.00 before rebounding to $586.10 as of this writing.
The US Marshals Service plans to keep holding another 144,342 Bitcoins that were found on Ulbricht's computer. He is contesting their forfeiture.