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Tipsheet

DOJ Touts New Cryptocurrency Crackdown Team

AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File

During remarks at the Munich Cyber Security Conference Thursday, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco announced the launch of a new FBI unit that will work with the Department of Justice National Crytocurrency Enforcement Team.

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"The FBI is forming a specialized team dedicated to cryptocurrency: the Virtual AssetExploitation Unit (VAXU). This FBI unit will combine cryptocurrency experts into one nerve center that can provide equipment, blockchain analysis, virtual asset seizure and training to the rest of the FBI," Monaco said. "We are also launching an International Virtual Currency Initiative to combat the abuse of virtual currency. This initiative will allow for more joint, international law enforcement operations — more eyes from multiple law enforcement agencies around the world — to track money through the blockchain. It will also foster responsible regulation and anti-money laundering requirements to root out the abuse of these technologies."

While the NCET was announced last fall, today DOJ named Eun Young Choi as its first Director. 

"The NCET was established to ensure the department meets the challenge posed by the criminal misuse of cryptocurrencies and digital assets, and comprises attorneys from across the department, including prosecutors with backgrounds in cryptocurrency, cybercrime, money laundering and forfeiture. The NCET will identify, investigate, support and pursue the department’s cases involving the criminal use of digital assets, with a particular focus on virtual currency exchanges, mixing and tumbling services, infrastructure providers, and other entities that are enabling the misuse of cryptocurrency and related technologies to commit or facilitate criminal activity," DOJ explained in a release.

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"The NCET will set strategic priorities regarding digital asset technologies, identify areas for increased investigative and prosecutorial focus, and lead the department’s efforts to coordinate with domestic and international law enforcement partners, regulatory agencies and private industry to combat the criminal use of digital assets," the release continues. "Finally, the NCET will enhance the Criminal Division’s existing efforts to provide support and training to federal, state, local, and international law enforcement to build capacity to aggressively investigate and prosecute serious crimes involving cryptocurrency and digital assets in the United States and around the world."

While Department officials insist the cryptocurrency team will be used to target illicit and illegal activity, citizens and lawmakers  are concerned about abuse and political targeting. 

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden is expected to sign an executive order related to cryptocurrency in the coming weeks. 

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