For years, law enforcement has feared that bitcoin could make money laundering easier. And now, in a new analysis of 2,500 suspected crypto crimes that made use of bitcoin and Ethereum, The Wall Street Journal claimed that nearly $90 million worth of reportedly criminal proceeds have gone through crypto intermediaries in a two-year period.
The newspaper claimed it developed computer applications to discover the extent of money laundering through digital currency. According to its analysis, which it is said only included “a narrow slice of suspected criminal behavior," $88.6 million worth of funds were laundered via 46 exchanges. The newspaper claims that law enforcement possibly seized under $2 million of the funds that the paper analyzed.
The news comes a few months after the Trump administration created a new task force that will focus on protecting consumers from one of the biggest fraud threats: crypto coins. Bloomberg noted that a focus of the panel, announced in mid-July, was to be on the scams involving bitcoin and other virtual tokens, including crimes like money laundering and investment schemes targeting the elderly.
According to an executive order signed by President Donald Trump, the new task force is led by the Justice Department and consists of agencies including the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The document cited “cyber fraud” and “digital currency fraud” as targets of the group’s work, with the group responsible with providing guidance for investigations and recommending ways to improve cooperation among government agencies.
In other crypto crime news, The New York Times reported in February there have been a “startling number” of armed robberies of cryptocurrency holders across the globe. In many cases, the criminals are able to force the victim to hand over their hardware wallets or keys to online accounts, and then simply steal large amounts of crypto. And because the local authorities don’t have the technology to track transactions, the perpetrators are harder (or even impossible) to track down.