US task force to target cryptocurrency criminals

The US Department of Justice has announced it is to create a National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET), to tackle complex investigations and prosecutions of criminal misuses of cryptocurrency, particularly crimes committed by virtual currency exchanges, mixing and tumbling services, and money laundering infrastructure actors.

In launching the new team, Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco (above) said the NCET will combine the expertise of the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (MLARS), Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) and other sections in the division, with experts detailed from U.S. Attorneys’ Offices. Its core task will be to assist in tracing and recovery of assets lost to fraud and extortion, including cryptocurrency payments to ransomware groups.

“Today we are launching the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team to draw on the Department’s cyber and money laundering expertise to strengthen our capacity to dismantle the financial entities that enable criminal actors to flourish — and quite frankly to profit — from abusing cryptocurrency platforms,” said Monaco. “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.”

“The Criminal Division is already an established leader in investigating and prosecuting the criminal misuse of cryptocurrency,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite. “The creation of this team will build on this leadership by combining and coordinating expertise across the Division in this continuously evolving field to investigate and prosecute the fraudulent misuse, illegal laundering, and other criminal activities involving cryptocurrencies.”

Monaco added NCET will draw and build upon the established expertise across the Criminal Division to “deter, disrupt, investigate, and prosecute criminal misuse of cryptocurrency,” as well as to recover the illicit proceeds of those crimes whenever possible.

“Because cryptocurrency is used in a wide variety of criminal activity, from being the primary demand mechanism for ransomware payments, to money laundering and the operation of illegal or unregistered money services businesses, to being the preferred means of exchange of value on ‘dark markets’ for illegal drugs, weapons, malware and other hacking tools, the NCET will foster the development of expertise in cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies across all aspects of the Department’s work,” she added. “The NCET will also play a critical support role for international, federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement authorities grappling with these new technologies and new forms of criminal tradecraft.”

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