Two guys on
Reddit who were enraged when someone stole as much as $US100 million in Bitcoins from “Sheep Marketplace,”an illegal online drug sales web site, believe the thief has passed the cash through a Bitcoin wallet that at one point contained as much as $US220 million.
The thief is currently attempting to hide a stash of at least 96,000 Bitcoins (about $US100 million), the pair said in a conversation on Reddit.
The two Reddit users, “SheepReloaded2” and “NodManOut” have become heroes on a subreddit dedicated to tracking the thief. They believe the theft — which Business Insider told you about yesterday — is one of the largest heists in history.
But there is just one problem (for the thief): His haul is so huge it sticks out like a sore thumb whenever he tries to launder the money. And his pursuers believe he will be unable to cash out a sum that large without revealing himself. “He has 1% of the world’s bitcoins. Its hard to clean and sell more than 4 or 5 btc at a time,” SheepReloaded2 says.
The stakes are high: It’s not simply that there is a large amount of stolen cash at stake. Because Sheep Marketplace was a haven for criminals who do business, it’s likely that some of the victims in this theft want the perpetrator dead.
“I won’t find this guy. Somebody else will,” SheepReloaded2 told Reddit. “I assume he’ll be jailed, blackmailed, tortured or killed. I dunno.”
Although the chase is virtual, it “feels” like something from The Matrix — two heroes chasing a thief through the world’s computer networks, and the thief has split up his Bitcoin runners into 96 different quarries.
The drama began in late November when the operators of Sheep Marketplace — which had risen to prominance after the FBI took down Silk Road, the previous large, anonymous hub for drug dealers — announced they were closing down because the site was hacked. The hacker fooled users into thinking their online Bitcoin wallets were full when in fact they had been looted.
Bitcoin’s “blockchain” ledger keeps track of every single transaction, so anyone can see what happens to the money. And the transactions are so large it’s obvious that they involve Sheep Marketplace money.
NodManOut figured out a way to track the money, he posted on Reddit (errors in the original):
… its easy when chasing a big amount so say you transfer 500k and that’s.tied to 3 small.deposits ranging from 3-5hundred now you just find which wallet got the 500k. or in this instance he.was.dumping random amounts along the way so wallet would be 498k and keep.following doesn’t take a genius, its pretty obvious when you got a bunch of withdraws coming out of the wallet we know was the right one at the amounts of 940k multiple times then he would just.do the same thing with those as I’ve stated.before.multiple times you can check wallets I’ve listed already to see for yourself
SheepReloaded2 took NodManOut’s advice and began sending the thief tiny fractions of Bitcoins, specifically 0.00666 Bitcoins. The “666” amount helped him follow further transactions involving that tiny sum. Now that SheepReloaded2’s money is mixed in with the thief’s money, he can see where the stolen money is going — as long as he sends another “666” amount into any new wallet where the money lands.
Thus SheepReloaded2 is always one step behind the thief, but the thief can’t shake off SheepReloaded2, he says:
Its like running a marathon through fog, listening for the footsteps of other runners. It helps if there are 96,000 of them, though! … This guy is good, but he’s on his last legs. If he can sell a single bitcoin, I’ll be surprised.
He also praised NodManOut for being the first to spot the “exit” the thief had used from Sheep Market:
This is the biggest heist of all time. Is it in the newspapers? No TheNodManOut made the hardest spot – the escape route wallet from sheep. I assume he normally drives round in a van solving mysteries.
… He has 1% of the world’s bitcoin. He likes neat whole numbers. When tiny fractions suddenly appear, its obvious he’s tumbling them. nearly all the pants in the washing machine are his, so sheep swag mixes with sheep swag,and comes out looking like…er, sheep swag.
Then, he just combines it back together into the same sized lump!
He’s probably scared and wished he only had 100 bitcoins. His laptop hard drive is worth millions. Every day he spends another $US3million, tumbling his bitcoin with his bitcoin.
Tracking the thief is difficult, though, because he is splitting up the haul into smaller and smaller chunks of cash, and each one might be the wallet that allows him to cash out, NodManOut says:
Yeah its tedious because after he splits those down you have to follow that through another 50-100wallets untill he apparently thinks they’ve been moved safely
Sheepreloaded2 has become manic in his pursuit of the money:
I followed him for hours yesterday, he was creating new wallets, moving 2000 BTC in, waiting for enough confirmations, then moving 2000BTC into the next wallet, leaving the balance at zero.
I would see the new wallet before the first confirmation even appeared on the blockchain. I’d point my mobile at the QR code,and send a memorable number. He must have felt he devil was chasing him.
The drama hit a peak when one Bitcoin wallet linked to the Sheep thief was discovered to have roughly 220,000 Bitcoins in it — about $US220 million:
“No wonder the bitcoin price is high. Half of them are out of circulation!,” Sheepreloaded2 told Reddit. He believes the thief lives in the Czech Republic, and has vowed to never stop pursuing him:
I have a computer attached to the internet, so like everyone, I can track every bitcoin wallet for the rest of time.
$200M is the largest theft in history. eventually it might get in the newspaper. the police could even assign an officer to look for him.
I asked very politely,you know what us brits are like. But he stole from the wrong guy. I will chase him on foot through hell and out the other side if I have to, so help me god.
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