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February 17, 2022

The FBI is Establishing a National Crypto Unit 

According to Reuters, the US Justice Department FBI recently appointed Eun Young Choi, an experienced computer crimes prosecutor, to lead its new national cryptocurrency enforcement division. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco made the announcement on Thursday at the Munich Cyber Security Conference in Germany.

Young is well-known for leading the prosecution team in a case in which a Russian hacker was sentenced to 12 years in prison earlier this month for stealing the private information of approximately 100 million customers from JPMorgan, the Wall Street Journal, and other institutions. He is now in charge of leading a team of cyber and legal experts in prosecuting accused individuals in the new cryptocurrency department.

Monaco also stated that the FBI was establishing a “virtual asset exploitation” unit that would be in charge of investigating suspected crypto crimes and seizing virtual assets. The two organs would cooperate and work with international sleuths to bring criminals in the blockchain sector to justice.

The announcement comes just days after the DOJ arrested a New York couple for attempting to launder a large sum suspected of being stolen during the infamous 2016 Bitfinex hack, which resulted in Bitcoins worth more than $4.4 billion going missing. As a result of that recovery, crime watchdogs have pushed crypto-related crimes to the top of their priority lists, as crimes in the sector have increased.

Following a string of cyberattacks that frequently result in extortion, such as the one that rocked the United States’ fuel pipeline network and beef supplier JBS by a notorious Russian group called REvil, which frequently demands a ransom in cryptocurrency, Biden and other like-minded leaders have increasingly called for increased scrutiny on the crypto sector.

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Despite various countries recovering and prosecuting suspected crypto criminals, there are still 4,068 “criminal whales” with a combined cryptocurrency value of $25 billion, according to a Wednesday report by leading blockchain data analysis website Chainalysis. With the DOJ and FBI stepping up their investigations, it will be interesting to see how these villains navigate the intricate web of snares laid out for them.