The US Department of Justice has formed a team to look into cryptocurrency-related criminal activity. According to a press statement from the agency, the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET) will investigate “crimes perpetrated by virtual currency exchanges, mixing and tumbling services, and money laundering infrastructure operators.” By combining cryptocurrencies with other monies, mixing and tumbling services might disguise the source of a cryptocurrency transaction.
Cryptocurrency is “used in a wide variety of criminal behavior,” according to the FBI, including ransomware demand payments, money laundering, and illegal drug, weapon, and malware sales. Several high-profile ransomware attacks have included bitcoin demands, such as the Colonial Pipeline attack in May, in which the firm reportedly paid a $5 million ransom to DarkSide (the organization later apologized for the hack’s “social implications”). Last month, the Treasury Department for the first time imposed sanctions on a bitcoin exchange.
The NCET, according to the DOJ, will draw team members from the DOJ’s money laundering, intellectual property, and computer crimes divisions, as well as US attorneys’ offices across the country, to provide expertise in blockchain and cryptocurrency transactions for the Justice Department and other US government agencies.
To begin, the team will be led by Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite Jr., but the Justice Department is looking for a permanent recruit with “experience with complex criminal investigations and prosecutions, as well as the technology behind cryptocurrencies and the blockchain.”
NCET will “draw on the Department’s cyber and money laundering expertise to increase our power to destroy the financial organizations that enable criminal actors to flourish— and quite frankly profit— from abusing cryptocurrency platforms,” according to Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.