The “Free Ross” campaign, which raises funds for jailed Silk Road admin Ross Ulbricht, said Coinbase has disabled its account. They added that Coinbase took the action right after the campaign received a 16.5 BTC donation.
The campaign, officially managed by the Ulbricht family, raises funds for Ross’ appeals and legal defense. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 2015 for his involvement with the darknet market. An appellate court denied an application from his legal team just last month.
The Free Ross Twitter account posted the news earlier today:
— Free_Ross (@Free_Ross) June 15, 2017
Free Ross Ulbricht Campaign Left Hanging
The campaign confirmed the news to Bitsonline, saying:
“We moved BTC from the blockchain to Coinbase this morning (bad timing) to convert to USD to pay for Ross’ defense. We validated our account on request and the next thing we knew it was disabled, no explanation except to say they’d get back to us in 72 hours.”
Coinbase, the most popular bitcoin exchange service in the U.S., frequently flags and freezes accounts where it notices suspicious activity — including users who engage in online gambling. It also quizzes its customers in-depth about how they use their bitcoin.
The Free Ross campaign has operated since Ulbricht was first arrested in October 2013. It certainly does not engage in any illicit activities, and simply presents Ulbricht’s side of the story while raising funds to pay for legal defense and appeals. The campaign did not store all its bitcoins on Coinbase, but used the account to convert its donations to USD.
Bitsonline has also reached out to Coinbase for further comment.
Coinbase Just Appointed Silk Road-Connected Prosecutor
However the Ulbricht-related plot thickens. Just a day ago, Coinbase announced on its blog that former federal prosecutor Kathryn Haun would join its Board of Directors. Haun was the first-ever digital currency co-ordinator at the U.S. Department of Justice with a focus on cybercrime, gangs, national security and financial fraud.
News that Haun would work for Coinbase did not sit comfortably with some in the Bitcoin community:
You guys hired the prosecutor of @Free_Ross? Good way to alienate a bunch of bitcoin users.
— farscapian (@farscapian) June 15, 2017
It’s important to note that Haun did not prosecute Ross Ulbricht himself, only the corrupt federal agents. However disabling the Free Ross account so soon after her appointment to the Board is interesting timing, to say the least.
As the most prominent bitcoin exchange in the U.S., Coinbase is also highly regulated. It is registered as a Money Services Business with FinCEN and, according to its site, “is required to comply with many financial services and consumer protection laws”. These include the Bank Secrecy Act, the USA Patriot Act, and other state laws.
Bitsonline will continue to monitor this developing story.
Why do you think Coinbase froze the account? Let’s hear your thoughts.
Images via FreeRoss.org, Twitter