“From the bright lights of Athens to the dark side of crypto: The captivating tale of James ‘Jimmy’ Zhong, the ex-Athens resident whose Bitcoin fraud scheme grabbed the attention of CNBC.”
A new CNBC documentary titled “Crypto 911: Exposing a Bitcoin Billionaire” tells the story of James “Jimmy” Zhong and the 2019 Athens break-in that revealed a $3 billion cryptocurrency fraud. The documentary features never-seen-before footage and in-depth interviews with Athens-Clarke County police, a special agent with the IRS, a cyber intelligence expert, and a private investigator.
According to the police report obtained by the Athens Banner-Herald, Zhong reported that his home on Ruth Street in Athens was burglarized while he was out of town. The thief shattered a window in a rear bedroom and stole a briefcase containing $400,000 cash and a USB thumb drive with personal information.
This incident led to a major investigation by the ACCPD, the IRS, and other agencies into Zhong’s Bitcoin finances. In November 2021, a search of Zhong’s home in Gainesville resulted in the seizure of over $3.36 billion in Bitcoin. The seized assets included bitcoin found in an underground floor safe and on a computer hidden inside a popcorn tin, as well as cash and precious metals.
The documentary also explores Zhong’s history as a hacker. In 2012, he hacked the dark web marketplace Silk Road and stole 50,000 Bitcoins, which eventually grew in value to $3 billion.
Despite the extensive investigation, the ACCPD was unable to identify the person who burglarized Zhong’s home. Zhong enlisted the help of private investigator Robin Martinelli, who believed that some of Zhong’s friends may have been taking advantage of him.
Zhong pleaded guilty to wire fraud in November 2022 and was sentenced to one year and a day in federal prison in April 2023. He began serving his sentence at the federal prison camp in Montgomery, Alabama, on July 14, 2023.
The CNBC documentary provides a fascinating insight into the world of cryptocurrency fraud and the consequences faced by those involved. It serves as a cautionary tale for investors and highlights the importance of cybersecurity in the digital age.