The United States Secret Service is working hard to crack down on illicit crypto use. At the time of writing, a new report has been issued claiming that the Secret Service has garnered as much as $102 million in illicit crypto funds through fraud-related investigations.
The Secret Service Is Going After Illicit Crypto Actors
David Smith is the assistant director of investigations for the Secret Service. He says that agents everywhere are monitoring blockchain activity and stepping in whenever they feel a red flag shows itself. He stated in an interview:
When you follow a digital currency wallet, it’s no different than an email address that has some correlating identifiers, 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 $102 million stems from more than 250 separate cases, many of which involved foreign nationals conducting money laundering schemes and other criminal activities. Several of the incidents at hand have been conducted in partnership with organizations such as the Romanian National Police and other international law enforcement groups. As many as 900 individuals in the United States have been targeted by illicit actors.
In addition, the Secret Service says it has also uncovered several attempts to launder money and exchange dirty funds through Russian and North Korean hands. This makes sense given the U.S.’s current sanctions. Smith says:
One of the things about cryptocurrency is it moves money at a faster pace than the traditional format. What criminals want to do is sort of muddy the waters and make efforts to obfuscate their activities. What we want to do is track that as quickly as we can and as aggressively as we can in a linear fashion.
Furthering his comments, he stated that tracking dirty money through digital means or exchanges is similar to looking at a “house of mirrors.” He says that once the Secret Service can pinpoint bad actors, they dig further into their transactions and break them down. He says:
You send me something bad in an email. I know there’s some criminal activity associated with that email address. I can deconstruct it and find whatever tidbits of information that you used when you initially logged in or signed up for that email address.
The Money Usually Gets Converted Quickly
Often, he says that the criminals the organization follows will take bitcoin and other standard units of crypto and convert them into stable assets, believing they are harder to track. To follow these transactions, members of the Secret Service must keep a close eye on the market. Smith finished with:
Because, you know, the criminals, they’re humans too. They want to avoid some of that market volatility associated with some of the major coins.