More Than $102 Million In Crypto Assets Seized By Secret Service

By Jason Hall

April 19, 2022

CGI image of bitcoin cryptocurrency
Photo: Getty Images

The United States Secret Service has seized more than $102 million in cryptocurrency from individuals linked to fraud-related investigations in an effort to crack down on illicit digital currency transactions.

David Smith, assistant director of investigations, confirmed U.S. Secret Service agents and analysts have been monitoring the flow of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies on the blockchain, which led to the seizure of crypto in 254 cases since 2015, according to statistics provided by the agency.

“When you follow a digital currency wallet, it’s not different than an email address that has some correlating identifiers,” Smith told NBC News in an interview at the agency’s headquarters. “And once a person and another person make a transaction, and that gets into the blockchain, we have the ability to follow that email address or wallet address, if you will, and trace it through the blockchain.”

The cases include an investigation with the Romanian National Police which discovered a scheme in which 900 victims from the U.S. were targeted through fake ads on popular online auctions and sales websites for non-existent luxury items, as well as the delivering of invoices believed to be reputable companies to falsely make the transactions seem real.

The perpetrators committed money-laundering by turning the victims' funds into digital assets, the Secret Service confirmed to NBC News.

In other cases, a Russian cybercrime syndicate was reported to have used crypto exchange to launder funds and a ransomware operation linked to criminals from Russia and North Korea in which U.S. companies to paid for the attacks to be stopped with Bitcoin and went the suspects' crypto wallets.

“One of the things about cryptocurrency is it moves money at a faster pace than the traditional format,” Smith said, acknowledging that the quick transaction pace makes cryptocurrency attractive to American consumers and criminal hackers. “What criminals want to do is sort of muddy the waters and make efforts to obfuscate their activities. What we want to do is to track that as quickly as we can, aggressively as we can, in a linear fashion.”

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