The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Tuesday that it has seized nearly $9 million worth of the stablecoin Tether associated with an international criminal network running romance scams and cryptocurrency investment schemes.
Dubbed “Pig Butchering,” these scams seek to gain a victim’s trust before coercing them to make bogus crypto investments or directly stealing their funds. The DOJ said the seized assets, traced across dozens of crypto wallets, will be returned to over 70 identified victims across the country.
- Once victims deposited crypto, the funds were quickly laundered through multiple wallets and currencies in an attempt to cover up the money trail. This common technique is referred to as “chain hopping.”
- The case originated from victim complaints submitted to the FBI’s IC3 cyber tip line and the Federal Trade Commission. Secret Service agents were then able to trace the funds using blockchain analysis tools.
“Although the current landscape of the cryptocurrency ecosystem may seem like an ideal way to launder ill-gotten gains, law enforcement will continue to develop the expertise needed to follow the money and seize it back for victims.”said Acting Assistant AG Nicole Argentieri.
DOJ to go after illegal crypto proceeds despite geography
The Department of Justice said that while the cybercriminals and infrastructure behind these attacks are often overseas, U.S. law enforcement remains determined to go after illegal crypto proceeds, no matter where the perpetrators and money reside geographically.
The announcement also signals regulators are clamping down on the use of cryptocurrency to facilitate romance scams, which surged significantly during the pandemic.
U.S. Attorney Ismail Ramsey said Tuesday’s seizure proves Silicon Valley and U.S. authorities will more broadly utilize every resource at their disposal to bring perpetrators to justice and return funds to victims.