Helix Founder Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering Charges

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  • Larry Harmon, the founder of the Helix Bitcoin mixing service, has pleaded guilty to money laundering
  • Harmon had been due to fight the charges but changed his plea on the eve of the trial
  • Helix helped AlphaBay users launder drug money between 2014 and 2017

The founder of the Bitcoin mixing service Helix has pleaded guilty to committing money laundering through the service, 10 months after being hit with a $60 million fine for the same offence. Larry Harmon reversed his plea on the eve of a jury trial, admitting that Helix illegally laundered money for drug sellers, and now faces up to 20 years in prison. Helix was heavily used by AlphaBay users between 2014 and 2017.

Helix Attached Itself to AlphaBay

Harmon launched Helix around July 2014 and linked it to his existing Darknet search engine, Grams. In a move that seems to have come back to haunt him, Harmon allowed Helix to be partnered with Darknet drugs supersite Alphabay in 2016, allowing users to ‘wash’ their bitcoin to ensure that it could not be traced. Helix was shut down shortly after Alphabay was taken down in July 2017, which is when Helix and Harmon came onto authorities’ radar.

Harmon was arrested in February 2020 over the operation of Helix which he ran between 2014 and 2017 after a Grand Jury decided in May 2019 that there was enough evidence to charge him. The charges were unsealed nine months later and Harmon was charged. He was issued with a $60 million fine by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) in October last year, but knew that worse was to come with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia’s case against him.

Harmon Faces Up To 20 Years in Prison

Harmon was charged with helping facilitate drug purchases to the tune of $300 million through Helix, and until yesterday was expected to fight the case against him. Presumably on the advice of his legal team Harmon changed his plea at the last minute, avoiding a jury trial he perhaps knew he could not win and instead accepting a lesser sentence than he would have got had he been found guilty at trial.

Harmon now faces up to 20 years in prison for his association with Helix, as well as a fine of at least $500,000. His sentencing date has yet to be confirmed.