The FBI is intensifying its efforts to combat the illicit use of cryptocurrencies in various criminal activities. According to a recent forfeiture notice released by the bureau on August 21st, they have seized a total of 195 instances of major cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH), across multiple states and jurisdictions.
Forfeiture is a legal process that allows the government to take ownership of property involved in a crime, ensuring that criminals cannot benefit from their illicit activities. The fact that the FBI has invoked this process 195 times specifically for virtual currency seizures indicates that they have been actively tracking cryptocurrencies. These seizures often involve the confiscation of cash, vehicles, weapons, drugs, and other illegal goods, as they fall under statutes related to drug proceeds, fraud, money laundering, and more.
The FBI carried out 39 virtual currency seizures in California, 35 in Florida, 25 in Texas, 20 in New York, and 19 in Virginia. A wide range of cryptocurrencies was seized, including Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Tether (USDT), Cardano (ADA), Polkadot (DOT), and others. This demonstrates the bureau’s ability to track and trace cryptocurrencies across different blockchain platforms.
The amounts of cryptocurrency seized vary widely, ranging from as little as 0.0005 Bitcoin worth $11.40 to over 100,000 Tether valued at $110,572. The total dollar value of the virtual currency seizures in each case ranged from a few hundred dollars to as much as $469,076. The frequent seizure of cryptocurrencies alongside drugs, cash, weapons, and other illegal goods highlights their integration into existing criminal ecosystems, as they are perceived as anonymous and untraceable payment methods.
To combat this growing issue, the FBI established a dedicated cryptocurrency tracing unit in 2015. This unit enables agents to follow the flow of crypto tied to drug trafficking, fraud, weapons offenses, extortion, and various other crimes through the blockchain. FBI Director Christopher Wray has emphasized that monitoring and cracking down on illicit cryptocurrency usage is a top priority for the agency. The 195 virtual currency forfeitures mentioned in the August notice demonstrate the FBI’s ability to track and seize crypto funds.
The widespread geographic distribution of the seizures indicates a coordinated effort between FBI field offices, federal prosecutors, and cryptocurrency exchanges. Although the number of seizures represents only a fraction of illicit crypto activities, their frequency has been increasing as Bitcoin and other digital assets gain wider adoption. According to the 2022 FBI Crime Report, complaints of cryptocurrency scams have risen by 65% compared to the previous year.
In conclusion, the FBI’s crackdown on illicit crypto cash flows is a significant development in the ongoing battle against cryptocurrency-related crimes. With the bureau’s enhanced tracking capabilities and increased coordination with relevant stakeholders, it is clear that they are stepping up their efforts to ensure that criminals cannot exploit cryptocurrencies for their illicit gains.