FBI forming crypto enforcement unit

    19 Feb 2022
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    The US Justice Department announced on February 17 that the FBI is launching a unit for blockchain analysis and virtual asset seizure and assigned Eun Young Choi, a seasoned computer crimes prosecutor, to lead a new team, dedicated to investigating and prosecuting illicit cryptocurrency schemes.

    According to Reuters, in a speech at the Munich Cyber Security Conference in Germany, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco announced that Eun Young Choi, a prosecutor who led the case against a Russian hacker who helped steal information about more than 80 million JPMorgan & Chase Co customers, will lead the department’s cryptocurrency enforcement team.

    “If we’re going to see — as I think we will — cryptocurrency gaining more traction and gaining wider adoption, we’ve got to make sure that the ecosystem that they operate in can be trusted and, frankly, can be policed,” Monaco said in an interview. “We’re going to make it our business to go after them and get those proceeds back and make it clear to them that they can’t hide.”

    Choi recently served as Monaco’s senior counsel. She worked for nearly a decade as a cybercrime coordinator and assistant US attorney in New York, according to her LinkedIn profile. the US Attorney’s Office in New York.

    Also, Monaco announced the creation of a new international virtual currency initiative and said the department will be aggressive about disrupting cyber threats, even at the risk of tipping off cybercriminals and jeopardizing potential charges.

    Choi said her team is reaching out to crypto companies that have robust anti-laundering policies and strong compliance programs, as well as blockchain analytics firms.

    “The information they hold is crucial to rooting out the abuse of cryptocurrencies because they’re the ones who can see in their own systems suspicious activities that may be happening,” she said.

    The $2 trillion market for cryptocurrencies has boomed as companies and investors look to reap higher returns and get a foothold in a technology seen as still in its early days.

    US regulators under President Joe Biden have been ratcheting up their scrutiny of the crypto industry in the wake of a series of high-profile cyberattacks last year on the largest US fuel pipeline network and the world’s largest beef supplier. Ransomware attackers often demand their fees in Bitcoin. In some of those cases, the FBI has been able to track down and recover some of the ransom.

    The creation of the FBI’s “virtual asset exploitation” unit comes after the Justice Department’s largest-ever financial seizure earlier this month. It charged a married New York couple with allegedly laundering Bitcoins now valued at over $4.5 billion that were stolen in the 2016 hack of the crypto exchange Bitfinex.

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