As cryptocurrency continues to gain popularity in the markets, many Texas businesses and individuals have become interested in the new digital currency. This year, 2021, has been a breakout year for performance featuring a market cap that recently surpassed $2.2T. Adoption also continues to expand with several large companies accepting cryptocurrency payments including the Dallas Mavericks, AT&T, Starbucks, Overstock, PayPal, and the new crypto-backed Mastercard. While the combination of these factors continues to drive interest and investment, it has also attracted the attention of criminals as well. Last year alone over 82,000 crimes involving Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other digital currencies were reported in the U.S. alone. Significant concerns about crime and lack of comprehensive regulations have forced the government to act.
Earlier this month, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the creation of a National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET). The focus is to investigate and prosecute complex criminal activity related to digital currency. Attention will be focused on illegal activities committed by virtual currency exchanges mixing and tumbling (a service that sends cryptocurrency while concealing the owner’s identity) and money laundering activities. There will also be an emphasis on the recovery of assets lost to fraud and extortion including payments to ransomware demands. This announcement represents the first comprehensive enforcement steps taken by the federal government.
Members of the team bring expertise to bear from across the DOJ spectrum including anti-money laundering, asset recovery, computer crimes, and intellectual property sections. Using this expanded expertise, NCET will continue to implement the Cryptocurrency Enforcement Framework by:
- Investigating/prosecuting cases where cryptocurrency is used as an illicit tool.
- Developing strategic priorities for investigations/prosecutions
- Increasing scrutiny on professional money launderers, ransomware schemes, narcotic traffickers, and financial institutions working with the digital currency.
- Facilitating relationships with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies that investigate and prosecute cryptocurrency-related crimes.
- Training prosecutors in the development of investigative and prosecutorial strategies including search and seizure warrants, restraining orders, etc.
- Coordinating communication between law enforcement offices to include the sharing of information and evidence to maximize efforts.
- Developing relationships with private sector markets, companies, and institutions, to increase the effectiveness of criminal enforcement actions.
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