Feds Seize Crypto Worth $20 Million From Darknet Vendors
The Department of Justice, the top law enforcement body of the U.S. government, has partnered with other U.S. agencies and seized crypto worth $20 million USD from darknet vendors. The DOJ has called it the “first nationwide undercover operation” targeting such vendors. Over the last few years, the U.S. federal government has seized and auctioned millions of dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency, mainly bitcoin.
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More Than 30 Darknet Vendors Arrested Following Federal Sting
As the DOJ press release states, the sting operation, which took place over the last year, included the Department of Justice, the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations unit, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Accordingly, it was an expansive investigation unprecedented in its scope within America. The coordination led to U.S. authorities apprehending 35 darknet vendors on charges of trading “illicit goods” on the Dark Web — the area of the internet only accessible by specialized software, a la the Tor Browser. Along with the arrests, officials seized thousands of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, amounting to $20 million collectively.
Agents also confiscated bitcoin mining machines and computer equipment. In addition to digital currencies, the law officials seized $3.6 million in dollars and gold bars, huge amounts of narcotics, and firearms. Per the DOJ’s release, the majority of the arrested vendors made use of bitcoin.
Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein announced the success of the long-winded sting operation, stating:
“Criminals who think that they are safe on the Darknet are wrong. We can expose their networks, and we are determined to bring them to justice. Today, we arrested more than 35 alleged Darknet vendors. We seized their weapons, their drugs, and $23.6 million of their ill-gotten gains.”
To a large extent, Rosenstein’s right when it comes to exposing criminals, at least when it comes cryptocurrencies being a major de-anonymization vector on the Dark Web, as Bitsonline has previously reported on.
Gov’t’s Growing Bitcoin Activity
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) unit Acting Executive Associate Director Derek Benner said tracking wrongdoers on the darknet is difficult, as the criminals use multiple identities to sell illicit goods. To achieve their ends, special agents of the HSI masqueraded as money launderers who would facilitate dollars for crypto.
“The Darknet is ever-changing and increasingly more intricate, making locating and targeting those selling illicit items on this platform more complicated,” said Benner. “But in this case, HSI special agents were able to walk amongst those in the cyber underworld to find those vendors who sell highly addictive drugs for a profit. The veil has been lifted. HSI has infiltrated the Darknet, and together with its law enforcement partners nationwide, it has proven, once again, that every criminal is within arm’s reach of the law.”
In the past, the U.S. government has already reaped in several huge windfalls after auctioning seized bitcoins.
Indeed, recent seizures have, at times and only temporarily, made Uncle Sam among the largest holders of bitcoin. That dynamic looks to continue as the DOJ is seemingly ramping up its efforts to combat the more shadowy elements of internet crime and their use of crypto payments.
Is bitcoin still the most popular crypto for darknet vendors? Should it be? Share your views in the comments section.
Images via Newsmax, The Daily Dot