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A Springfield real estate businessman has filed a lawsuit against Coinbase Global Inc. and an unnamed suspect after he says $1.8 million of his Bitcoin was stolen overnight.

Titus Williams, president of Prosperiti Partners in Springfield, is mounting a complicated legal battle to recover the funds, which his lawyer said were meant to be used “to build out a piece of property in Missouri.”

During a hearing last week, Williams’ lawyer did not provide specifics about the real estate deal in question.

Williams’ company is involved in the 100-acre planned development near the Library Center on South Campbell Avenue called the Ridge at Ward Branch that was thought to include apartments, restaurants and hotels.

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According to the lawsuit Williams filed March 18 in federal court, Williams spent $1.8 million in late February to purchase a little more than 33 Bitcoins. Bitcoin is a form of virtual currency that is traded online.

The lawsuit says Williams transferred his Bitcoin to a cryptocurrency wallet at Blockchain.com on Feb. 25. But when Williams went to check his virtual wallet the next day, it had been emptied without his authorization.

According to what Williams’ lawyer, David Silver, said in court last week, Williams’ stolen Bitcoin was transferred to various private wallets across the internet.

A significant portion of the Bitcoin, however, landed in one account on Coinbase’s platform, according to the lawsuit.

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The man who owns that account, identified in court documents as John Doe, is thought by Williams’ team to be a suspect in the theft. According to what was said in court, John Doe is a resident of the United Kingdom. His identity has thus far been protected by Coinbase because of its privacy rules.

A lawyer for Coinbase Global Inc. said in court last week the stolen Bitcoin in John Doe’s account has been frozen, but Coinbase Global Inc. believes Williams needs to pursue his lawsuit in Europe, not the United States, in order to move forward.

Attorney Matthew Miller argued that Coinbase Global Inc. is a legal holding company, and Williams should sue Coinbase Europe overseas to get John Doe’s identity.

Silver, Williams’ attorney, pushed back, saying the Western District of Missouri is the proper venue for the case because it’s where the theft occurred.

In addition to this civil lawsuit, Springfield Police Department spokeswoman Jasmine Bailey said the local police department’s financial crimes unit is also conducting a criminal investigation into the theft. Charges have not yet been filed.

Through a company representative, Williams declined to be interviewed for this report.

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