When the Justice Department announced it seized billions in stolen cryptocurrency earlier this year, it seemed like great news for victims of a hack that drained around $70 million from customers’ accounts on the Bitfinex trading platform in 2016. “It was the biggest relief of my life,” said Frankie Cavazos, who lost 15 bitcoins in the hack. Over the course of the last six years, the value of the stolen crypto skyrocketed. At the time of the hack, a single bitcoin was worth less than a thousand dollars. Today it would be trading for around $20,000. For Cavazos, getting his bitcoins back would be “a life-changing amount of money.” But so far thousands of victims like him haven’t experienced the happy ending they were hoping for. Instead, they’re embroiled in a battle over who is the legal owner of all that stolen crypto. On the day the news broke that the funds had been recovered, Bitfinex publicly asserted that the stolen bitcoins should be returned to the platform in a statement: “Bitfinex will work with the DOJ and follow appropriate legal processes to establish our rights to a return of the stolen bitcoin.”
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