Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Friday, February 26, 2021

Man makes last-ditch effort to recover $280 million in bitcoin he accidentally threw out

CryptoJames Howells, a 35-year-old IT engineer from Wales accidentally threw out a hard drive that had 7,500 bitcoins, which is worth about $280 million at today's prices. Howells said he had two identical laptop hard drives and he accidentally threw the drive with the cryptographic "private key" that he needed to access his coins in the trash. 

Howells, is confident that he would be able to retrieve the key and recover the bitcoin. Howells stated that if the platter inside is still intact, data recovery experts could rebuild the drive and read the data from the platter. The drive, which he threw away eight years ago, is the only way to regain access to the coins. 

Unfortunately, retrieving the hard drive would not be an easy task. Howells will first need to gain permission from local council to search the garbage dump since the landfill is not open to the public. After that, Howells would have to dig through eight years worth of garbage. 

Howells has offered to donate 25% (around $70.8 million) of the bitcoin to a Covid Relief Fund for his city if he is able to find the drive. Unfortunately, city council has rejected his requests so far and they are showing no signs of letting up any time soon. 

See Ryan Browne, Man makes last-ditch effort to recover $280 million in bitcoin he accidentally threw out, CNBC News, January 15, 2021. 

Special thanks to David S. Luber (Florida Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.


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