Justice Department Appoints Crypto Enforcement Team Head, FBI Launching Crypto Unit

Federal authorities in the United States, including the Justice Department and the FBI, are taking immediate steps to curb what it sees as a surge in cryptocurrency-related crime.

During her speech at the Munich Cyber Security Conference, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco announced that Eun Young Choi would lead the cryptocurrency enforcement team for the Department of Justice. While serving most recently as Monaco’s senior counsel, Choi is a seasoned computer crimes prosecutor with nearly a decade’s experience as a cybercrime coordinator and assistant U.S. attorney in New York. As a prosecutor, she once led a case against a Russian hacker who had stolen data from more than 80 million JPMorgan & Chase Co customers.

“We are issuing a clear warning to criminals who use cryptocurrency to fuel their schemes,” Monaco said. “We also call on all companies dealing with cryptocurrency – we need you to root out cryptocurrency abuses. To those who do not, we will hold you accountable where we can.”

Crypto investigators

The deputy attorney general also announced the formation of a new international virtual currency initiative, adding that the department has decided to be aggressive about disruptive potential cyber threats. “Moving forward, prosecutors, agents, and analysts will now assess – at each stage of a cyber investigation – whether to use disruptive actions against cyber threats, even if they might otherwise tip the cybercriminals off and jeopardize the potential for charges and apprehension,” she said.

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Meanwhile, on the domestic front, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is also launching a unit for blockchain analysis and virtual asset seizure. The decision to create the FBI’s “virtual asset exploitation” unit came following the Justice Department’s largest-ever financial seizure earlier this month. A New York couple were detained for allegedly laundering Bitcoin now valued at over $4.5 billion that had been stolen during the Bitfinex hack in 2016. Ransomware attacks, which favor payment in crypto, have also become a priority for the Biden administration, having hit at least $600 million last year.

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