FBI forming crypto enforcement team

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is in the process of building a specialized team focused on the enforcement of crimes involving cryptocurrency, a Department of Justice official announced Thursday.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco made the revelation in a speech at the Munich Cyber ​​Security Conference in Germany, saying that the unit will be called the Virtual Asset Exploitation Team (VAXU).

Lisa Monaco deputy AG

Lisa Monaco, deputy US attorney general, speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington on Nov. 8, 2021. (Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

“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 explained, saying that the team will join the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET) she announced last October.

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In a separate announcement on Thursday, the DOJ said in a press release that seasoned computer crimes prosecutor Eun Young Choi will be the NCET’s first director, effective immediately.

DOJ

The US Department of Justice seal on a podium in Washington on Aug. 5, 2021. (Samuel Corum/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

“With the rapid innovation of digital assets and distributed ledger technologies, we have seen a rise in their illicit use by criminals who exploit them to fuel cyberattacks and ransomware and extortion schemes; traffic in narcotics, hacking tools and illicit contraband online; commit thefts and scams; and launder the proceeds of their crimes,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said in a statement.

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“The NCET will serve as the focal point for the department’s efforts to tackle the growth of crime involving these technologies,” Polite continued. “Eun Young is an accomplished leader on cyber and cryptocurrency issues, and I am pleased that she will continue her service as the NCET’s inaugural Director, spearheading the department’s efforts in this area.”

Heather Morgan and her husband, Ilya

In this courtroom sketch, Heather Morgan and her husband, Ilya “Dutch” Lichtenstein, right, in federal court. They are accused of conspiring to launder billions of dollars in cryptocurrency stolen from the 2016 hack of a virtual currency exchange. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams/AP Newsroom)

The announcements come on the heels of the DOJ’s largest cryptocurrency bust to date, after the federal law enforcement agency last month seized roughly $4.5 billion in bitcoin from a husband and wife duo accused of laundering the cryptocurrency that was allegedly stolen during the 2016 hack of virtual currency exchange Bitfinex.

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The Biden administration has ramped up its scrutiny of the cyber industry as a whole as part of an effort to crack down on cybercrimes amid an increase in attacks seeking virtual assets as ransom payments.

“We are issuing a clear warning to criminals who use cryptocurrency to fuel their schemes,” Monaco said in her speech. “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.”

FOX Business’ Jake Gibson contributed to this report.

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