FBI Coming for Your Crypto? Agency Forms New Cryptocurrency Unit to Fight ‘Virtual Asset Exploitation’

(by Chris Pandolfo | The Blaze) – The Biden administration FBI has established new task force to combat the criminal use of digital assets like Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.

The FBI has formed a National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team to address “the challenge posed by the criminal misuse of cryptocurrencies and digital assets.” Eun Young Choi, a seasoned prosecutor with nearly a decade of experience prosecuting computer crimes with the Bureau, has been appointed to lead the team of “cryptocurrency experts dedicated to providing analysis, support, and training across the FBI, as well as innovating its cryptocurrency tools to stay ahead of future threats,” the department said in a release.

“With the rapid innovation of digital assets and distributed ledger technologies, we have seen a rise in their illicit use by criminals who exploit them to fuel cyberattacks and ransomware and extortion schemes; traffic in narcotics, hacking tools and illicit contraband online; commit thefts and scams; and launder the proceeds of their crimes,” said Kenneth A. Polite Jr., assistant attorney general Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

“The NCET will serve as the focal point for the department’s efforts to tackle the growth of crime involving these technologies. Eun Young is an accomplished leader on cyber and cryptocurrency issues, and I am pleased that she will continue her service as the NCET’s inaugural Director, spearheading the department’s efforts in this area,” he added.

The FBI’s new “virtual asset exploitation” unit will analyze blockchain to investigate crimes and be empowered to seize virtual assets. It will work in partnership with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and other federal law enforcement agencies.

Choi’s appointment comes shortly after the DOJ arrested Ilya Lichtenstein and his wife Heather Morgan, a New York couple accused of laundering bitcoins now valued over $4.5 billion that were stolen from the cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex in 2016. According to Reuters, the arrest constituted the Justice Department’s largest-ever financial seizure.

The newly installed NCET director’s experience includes working for nearly a decade as a cybercrime coordinator and assistant U.S. attorney in New York investigating complex fraud and money-laundering schemes, DOJ said.

“We are issuing a clear warning to criminals who use cryptocurrency to fuel their schemes,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in a speech at the Munich Cyber Security Conference in Germany, where she announced Choi’s appointment.

“We also call on all companies dealing with cryptocurrency — we need you to root out cryptocurrency abuses. To those who do not, we will hold you accountable where we can,” she said.

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