US Justice Department forms a cryptocurrency enforcement team

The United States Department of Justice has formed a team of investigators to look into the use of cryptocurrency for criminal purposes. To be specific, the group, called National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET), will tackle cases committed by virtual currency exchanges and groups and individuals involved in money laundering. Members will also investigate mixing and tumbling services, which charge customers a fee to send cryptocurrency to an address while also concealing the source of the funds. In addition, they’ll work on tracing and recovering assets lost to fraud or ransomware extortion demands. 

© Kameleon007 via Getty Images close up shot of bitcoin shot in las vegas, nv. usa on September 6, 2021

According to the DOJ’s announcement, the team will combine the expertise of its money laundering and asset recovery section with its computer crime and intellectual property section. It will also include experts from US Attorneys’ Offices. The group will be under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr., though the Justice Department is still looking for an individual to lead it. DOJ is looking for someone “with experience with complex criminal investigations and prosecutions, as well as the technology underpinning cryptocurrencies and the blockchain,” in particular. 

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The hope is that NCET can provide the whole department and other government agencies with the expertise in cryptocurrency and blockchain needed to investigate and prosecute the growing number of cases related to the technology today. There’s been a rise in cybercrime cases these past years, including ransomware attacks wherein bad actors target companies across industries to hold their networks hostage in exchange for payment via cryptocurrency. 

Some of them have had real-world consequences. The attack on Colonial Pipeline caused fuel shortage in the East Coast, for instance, while the various attacks on hospitals around the world put people’s lives in danger. The Biden administration is even hosting a meeting with 30 countries later this month to discuss the threat of ransomware attacks to global economy and national security.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said in a statement:

“Today we are launching the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team to draw on the Department’s cyber and money laundering expertise to strengthen our capacity to dismantle the financial entities that enable criminal actors to flourish — and quite frankly to profit — from abusing cryptocurrency platforms. As the technology advances, so too must the Department evolve with it so that we’re poised to root out abuse on these platforms and ensure user confidence in these systems.”

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