- A multi-year investigation to crack down on a crypto-based money laundering ring in the U.S. has resulted in charges and prison time for 21 U.S. citizens
- The ring laundered money for foreign criminals using romance scams, business email compromises and more
- Millions of dollars were laundered by the ring
A multi-year investigation to crack down on a crypto-based money laundering ring in the U.S. has resulted in charges and prison time for 21 U.S. citizens. Operation Crypto Runner was focused on a gang that allegedly helped various transnational criminal rings launder their ill-gotten gains using cryptocurrency, which authorities say has used “highly organized and sophisticated schemes” to launder millions of dollars in crypto for criminal groups, with the elderly and vulnerable people the common targets.
U.S. Citizens Laundered Money for Foreign Crooks
Operation Crypto Runner was conducted by the East Texas branches of the Department of Justice (DOJ), the U.S. Secret Service (USSS), and the Postal Inspection Service (PIS) – the law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service. Scammers stole millions of dollars from United States fraud victims through various plots, including romance scams, business email compromises, technical support schemes, and other fraud schemes.
The money was then laundered through crypto network by the individuals targeted by Operation Crypto Runner, who, according to the Eastern District of Texas, were acting as domestic money launderers for foreign co-conspirators which allowed them to play “indispensable roles that allowed foreign actors to reach from overseas to target victims in communities across the United States.”
2020 Arrests Come to Light
Arrests were made in 2020 but the charges have just now come to light, with the activities including:
- Opening bank accounts for criminals to deposit into
- Swapping illegally obtained funds into crypto and sending to the perpetrators
- Structuring deposits to under $10,000 to avoid automatic detection
- Distributed counterfeit pharmaceutical pills and other controlled substances on the dark web
- Establishing shell companies and using company bank accounts to launder funds
Many of those responsible have since pleaded guilty and started prison sentences, but many are still awaiting their turn in the dock.