An autistic man, 32-year-old James Zhong, who stole 51,680 Bitcoin worth $620,000 in 2012, has been sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison. Zhong stole the Bitcoin from Silk Road, a platform on the dark web established by Ross Ulbricht for selling and buying weapons, stolen credit cards, and other illicit goods, Fortune reports.

Autistic Thief Who Stole 51,680 Bitcoin worth $3.4b Sentenced to One Year in Prison

Zhong, the child of Chinese immigrants who settled in Athens, Georgia, successfully hid his stolen loot for almost 10 years before he was busted in 2022. Each cryptocurrency was worth $12 when Zhong stole 51,680 Bitcoin in 2012 – worth a total of $620,000 – but its value had exploded to $3.35 billion when he was busted in November 2021.

According to court documents, Zhong concealed his stolen Bitcoin for almost 10 years before federal agents raided his house. Although the autistic thief had invested about $16 million of the loot in real estate, luxury hotels, nightclubs, and Lamborghinis, agents were still able to recover some of the stolen money.

From his Gainesville home in Georgia, federal agents were able to seize 50,491 Bitcoin as well as $661,900 in cash and gold and silver bars from Zhong. Prosecutors said the thief hid the Bitcoin on electronic devices in a safe under floorboards and on a single-board computer hidden inside a Cheetos popcorn tin stowed away inside a closet.

As of late 2021 when he was caught, the value of his stolen Bitcoin had plummeted to $1.5 billion. Pleading wrongdoing to investigators, Zhong agreed to surrender $42.7 million and 1,000 Bitcoin as well as property to the government. Although he faced 27-33 months in prison, US District Judge Paul Gardephe of the New York federal court said he would sentence him to one year and one day in prison.

Federal prosecutors said Zhong went through sophisticated maneuvres to hide his stolen money, but that he was also very cooperative when he was caught. They said he should get less than two years in prison on account of his young age, autism, and assistance in recovering most of the stolen cryptocurrency. The judge said he would only punish him because he needed to deter other potential criminals.

Zhong’s lawyers said his parents were divorced and that he had a troubled childhood. They said he was bullied and victimized in school because of his autism spectrum disorder, excess weight, and shyness. “Having no friends or family he could turn to, Jimmy found solace and friendship in the world of his computer,” they said.

The lawyers added that Silk Road founder Ulbricht even contacted Zhong to ask how he was able to steal so much Bitcoin but did not demand them back and even sent him more. Ulbricht was arrested for running the illicit marketplace and sentenced to two life sentences without the option of parole in 2013.

Pleading remorse in court, Zhong said “I think I buried my head in the sand. It made me feel important and worth something.”

Court documents revealed that Zhong attended the University of Georgia from 2008 to 2014 and earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and mining Bitcoin. He became an alcoholic and used cocaine according to a psychiatric examination report.

The court said at a time, he converted some Bitcoin to $700,000 in cash and kept the money at home, hoping that he get a girl to sleep with him if he showed the money off. “He hoped the visual appeal of the cash would impress a female into having sexual relations with him,” the report said. “He stated his plan did not work.”

In 2019, Zhong reported to police authorities that someone burgled his home and stole a silver briefcase containing cash of $400,000.