Author: Dr. Angelika Hellweger 13 December 2022
Are considered by Angelika Hellwegerof financial crime specialists Rahman Ravelli.
The 21, who are all US citizens, were arrested after an investigation by the US Secret Service, the Postal Inspection Service, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) - named Operation Crypto Runner - into a network that is said to have been responsible for over $300 million in money laundering transactions a year.
The 21 identified conspirators allegedly laundered millions of funds gained from romance scams, business email compromises, and real estate frauds. These criminal proceeds were then exchanged for cryptocurrency.
The US government has said that the arrests and charges will be followed by more, as further investigations are made to identify all those involved.
These arrests and charges are another significant 2022 enforcement development in the crypto world. They can be seen as a sign that law enforcement is willing to “follow the money across the blockchain” to disrupt transnational money laundering networks and the activities of international criminals.
Ten months ago, US authorities seized over $3.6 billion in cryptocurrency from a couple who were laundering money stolen from the 2016 Bitfinex hack. Six months later, the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned currency mixer company Tornado Cash, which was accused of laundering more than $7 billion of cryptocurrency since its creation in 2019. This was followed by Tornado Cash’s developer Alexey Pertsev being arrested in Amsterdam for what Dutch authorities called “concealing criminal financial flows and facilitating money laundering”.
These incidents were followed by announcements from the DOJ that it had arrested two Estonian citizens over alleged involvement in a $575 million cryptocurrency fraud and money laundering scheme, and an Ohio-based man regarding a $10 million-plus cryptocurrency investment fraud scheme.
The latest arrests are yet another indicator of the authorities’ willingness to tackle cryptocurrency-related crime.
Angelika is a specialist in international, high-level economic crime investigations and large-scale commercial disputes. She has widely-recognised expertise in representing corporates and conglomerates in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and United States.