Federal courts now accepting cryptocurrency for bail

High-tech criminal charges call for high-tech bail in Silicon Valley.

A man charged with hacking the Redwood City video game company Electronic Arts has been ordered to pay his bail in cryptocurrency, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Martin Marsich, 25, a Serbian and Italian national living in Udine, Italy, was arrested at SFO on Aug. 8 and made his first appearance in federal court in San Francisco on Thursday (Aug. 16), when federal Judge Jacqueline Corley ordered him to pay $750,000 in Bitcoin or any other kind of cryptocurrency to be released to a halfway house.

U.S. Assistant District Attorney Abraham Simmons said he doubted it was the first time a judge had allowed cryptocurrency for bail. Judges can order many kinds of bail, including real estate owned by another person.

“It really is quite broad,” Simmons said. “The judge could order just about anything. What the objective is is to get the defendant to comply with an order to appear later.”

If the value of the currency were to fluctuate dramatically, Simmons said he was “certain” that either party could file a motion to change the bail amount.

“The idea is to get him to court, not necessarily to maintain the value of any particular asset,” Simmons said. “I would imagine that either side would alert the court of an extreme change in the value of the asset, but it doesn’t mean that the court would care one way or the other.”

What about local courts?

While cryptocurrency is now acceptable in federal court, the story is different in the local Superior Court.

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said he had never heard of anyone bailing out of jail with cryptocurrency in any courtroom.

“It’s a new world. I love the new world,” Wagstaffe laughed.

But he said he didn’t think a cryptocurrency bail would fly in San Mateo County Superior Court.

“I can’t believe they do. I think they’re strictly certified checks and currency,” Wagstaffe said. “I think they take only greenbacks.”

The hacking case

Marsich is accused of accessing the company’s internal computer network and gaining access to 25,000 accounts that allow customers to buy items for use in video games.

He’s been charged with intentionally accessing a protected computer to get information for private financial gain and accessing a protected computer to defraud and obtain something of value.

Marsich was scheduled to appear in court again on Monday to confirm the posting of the cryptocurrency and to set further dates in the case.

If convicted, Marsich could face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution, if appropriate, for each violation.