- Lo Furneaux
New Appointment Announcement - Chief Recovery Officer
We are delighted to announce that Joanna Summers will be joining the Asset Reality team as our Chief Recovery Officer. Arguably one of the most experienced individuals in the world in terms of managing and realising seized crypto assets, Joanna’s extensive public sector background will help us build out the products that will improve crypto asset recovery efforts on the international stage.
After graduating from the University of Maryland with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy with a Minor in Business Spanish, Joanna began her working life as the Marketing Coordinator for the Solid Waste Association of North America. After spending a year in marketing, she decided to make a career change into commercial real estate and become a Leasing Assistant for the worldwide shopping giant Westfield. She remained in this position for more than four years before taking a position as a Realty Specialist for the US Army Corps of Engineers in Baltimore, during which she achieved a master's degree in Finance from The Carey Business School at The Johns Hopkins University.
In 2013, Joanna accepted a new government job in the Asset Forfeiture Department of the United States Marshals Service. In this role, she was instrumental in handling the sale of the cryptocurrency seizures involved in the infamous Silk Road case.
The Silk Road was a notorious black market on the dark web where buyers and sellers could trade in illegal goods completely anonymously, thanks to its early adoption of blockchain technology. Every transaction conducted on the platform was required to use Bitcoins in a dark wallet to ensure that the identities of everyone involved were kept hidden from the watchful eye of law enforcement.
The criminal marketplace was shut down permanently in 2013 after a joint investigation between the FBI, DEA, IRS and Customs. More than $34 million of Bitcoin was seized by the Department of Justice, but since the DoJ had never seized any cryptocurrency before, Joanna and her team were given custody of the coins and tasked with figuring out how to process and sell them.
This was a complicated process thanks to the volatility of the Bitcoin market at that time, as Joanna explains:
“This was right around the time that the Mt. Gox exchange went down. We didn’t feel that the exchanges were safe enough to be handling our cryptocurrency, so we went through the auction route of prepping it in-house and selling the coins in blocks.”
Unfortunately, the Silk Road seizure was so significant that the coins needed to be sold in batches to avoid flooding the Bitcoin market completely. Joanna spent the next few years managing their storage and sale. This led to the creation of new standard operating procedures for the custody, management and disposal of complex digital assets like cryptocurrency or non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Joanna and her team managed billions of dollars worth of seized crypto and helped many agencies across the US to realise their seized assets. Their work on the Silk Road case auctions gave the whole team the Attorney General’s Distinguished Service Award in 2015 for ‘Exemplary Performance in the Shutdown of the Silk Road Website and Subsequent Sale of Bitcoins’.
Though the journey was often long and complicated, Joanna feels honoured to have had such a pivotal role in the process:
“It was a great adventure. I don’t even think we realised the scope of what we were setting back then because at the time we were selling those Bitcoin, they were valued in the $250 - $500 range! It was so exciting to be a part of the first time the Department of Justice worked on a case like that, and the first time we started building the process that really launched the whole cryptocurrency program from there.”
In 2018, Joanna was promoted to Assistant Chief of the Complex Assets Division. In this role, she was responsible for managing a team of employees and interns alongside her continued efforts to develop the Marshal’s cryptocurrency program. She advanced the program’s capabilities to include custody, management and disposal services; worked with law enforcement on many high-profile crypto seizures and, thanks to her work on the Silk Road case auctions, she was also able to improve the liquidation process to dramatically decrease the time frame between auctions without affecting the market.
Now, as she leaves the public sector to be our Chief Recovery Officer, Joanna couldn’t be happier to hit the ground running in her new role:
“I’m very excited to join Asset Reality and collaborate with the amazing team they have in place. I’m looking forward to working with the public and private sector to assist with improving asset recovery around the world."
Our co-founder & CEO Aidan Larkin is delighted to have Joanna on the team:
“Since first meeting Joanna, it would be an understatement to say that I was impressed. I knew then that it was absolutely essential that she join Asset Reality and helped us to build out the products that will make crypto asset recovery easier and safer for everyone. I’m thrilled that she’s made the brave decision to leave the public sector and join us as our Chief Recovery Officer. I can’t think of a better person to join our incredible team of experienced US practitioners and help us build products and technical solutions for clients.”
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