The U.S. Justice Department is creating a national cryptocurrency enforcement team to tackle investigations and prosecutions of criminal misuses of cryptocurrency and to recover the illicit proceeds from these crimes, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said Wednesday.
The creation of the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team, which would be under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite Jr., will focus on crimes committed by virtual currency exchanges and mixing and tumbling services, the DOJ said in a statement. The team also would help trace and recover assets lost to fraud and extortion, the DOJ said.
A virtual currency “mixer” or “tumbler” charges customers a fee to send cryptocurrencies to a designated address in a manner designed to conceal the source or owner of the currency.
NCET would strengthen DOJ’s capacity “to dismantle the financial entities that enable criminal actors to flourish—and quite frankly to profit—from abusing cryptocurrency platforms,” Ms. Monaco said. “As the technology advances, so too must the department evolve with it so that we’re poised to root out abuse on these platforms and ensure user confidence in these systems,” she said.
The team would combine expertise from the DOJ criminal division’s money-laundering and asset recovery section and its computer crime and intellectual property section, as well as from U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country.
NCET also is looking for a leader with experience with criminal investigations and in the underlying technology for cryptocurrency and blockchain.
The announcement comes as U.S. law enforcement and regulators continue to look for ways to disrupt illicit crypto transactions. The Biden administration last month blacklisted a Russian-owned cryptocurrency exchange for allegedly helping launder ransomware payments, an action meant to deter future cyber-extortion attacks by disrupting their primary means of profit.
Larry Dean Harmon, an operator of a bitcoin “mixer” called Helix, pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy to launder money, the U.S. Justice Department said. He was also fined $60 million by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a bureau of the U.S. Treasury Department, for allegedly violating anti-money-laundering laws.