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Case to proceed against Montco man accused in $50M bitcoin heist

Despite lingering questions, a lawyer for a Hatfield man who says he stole millions in bitcoin conceded there was enough evidence for a criminal case to proceed.

The alleged theft would be one of the largest in the history of the virtual currency.
The alleged theft would be one of the largest in the history of the virtual currency.Read moreMARK LENNIHAN / AP

A lawyer for a Hatfield man who told federal agents that he stole more than $50 million in bitcoin conceded Thursday that there was enough evidence for a criminal case against him to proceed, despite lingering questions over whether he made up his claim to have pulled off one of the largest thefts in the history of the virtual currency.

Catherine C. Henry, attorney for Ted Price, waived a probable-cause hearing she had sought last week, after questioning whether her client made his July 12 confession while high on OxyContin and other opioids.

At the time, authorities had charged Price, 30, with developing a malware program that enabled him to surreptitiously divert funds from other people's bitcoin wallets.

But days after Henry's request for an evidentiary hearing last week, prosecutors withdrew that charge and refiled a case against Price, charging him with other crimes tied to stolen credit-card information they found in his possession at the time of his arrest.

During a brief hearing Thursday in federal court in Philadelphia, prosecutors and Price's defense announced that they had agreed that enough evidence existed to hold him on those crimes – although prosecutors have signaled they may reintroduce counts tied to the bitcoin theft once they have  more time to investigate.

Homeland Security Investigations agents found more than 105 printed pages of alphanumeric bitcoin keys in Price's laptop bag after his arrest on suspicion of a string of petty thefts of computer equipment and jewelry from the home of an ex-girlfriend.

Questioned about the pages, Price told agents about his complicated bitcoin theft software and also confessed to writing malware programs that he said allowed foreign governments to hack into certain cellphones.

According to his arrest affidavit, Price also said he had been planning to flee the country on a private jet with a fake passport in the name of the actor Jeremy Renner moments before authorities arrived at his doorstep.

But Henry, who has not returned phone calls about the case, has maintained in court that there is little evidence that her client had access to the $50 million he claims to have stolen.

"If he is a millionaire and has a private jet, then of course he's a flight risk," Henry said at a hearing last week while arguing for her client's release. "But if that's made up and if, on the other hand, he has no income, lives with his parents, and has a 7-year-old child, then these are just grandiose statements."

Price is being held without bail at the federal detention center in Philadelphia. Prosecutors have one month to take his case before a grand jury.