US Justice department seizes $20m in cryptocurrencies from cyber criminals
The US Department of Justice and other federal agencies including the Secret Service announced the conclusion of a year-long national operation that culminated in the arrest and impending investigation of more than 35 individuals operating on the Darknet.
The agencies said they used the first nationwide undercover sting to target the vendors of illicit goods on the Darknet with special agents from the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) posing as money launderers exchanging US currency for virtual currency.
The operation led to 90 active cases around the country pursuing vendors of illegal activities. The 35 vendors who were arrested were said to have been engaged in tens of thousands of sales of illicit goods. Seizure included nearly 2,000 Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies valued at more than $20m, and more than $3.6m in US currency and gold bars, bitcoin mining devices, firearms and narcotics.
In a press release, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said: “Criminals who think that they are safe on the Darknet are wrong. We can expose their networks, and we are determined to bring them to justice.”
Lifting a veil
“The veil has been lifted. HSI has infiltrated the Darknet, and together with its law enforcement partners nationwide, it has proven, once again, that every criminal is within arm’s reach of the law,” added HSI Acting Executive Associate Director Derek Benner.
The operation, which is still ongoing, was described by officials as groundbreaking and enforcement authorities said they were sending a “strong message to those who choose this illegal path, we are watching and will bring you to justice for your crimes against the American public.”
Accounts were set up on Darknet market sites such as Silk Road, AlphaBay, Hansa, Dream, and others to distribute drugs around the US. Funds were laundered as cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum and Komodo.