El IRS arrestó al dueño del mezclador de bitcoins que lavó $ 336 millones
The feds of the United States have arrested a fraudster who is accused of money laundering in the amount of $336 million in Bitcoin equivalent. We are talking about the administrator of one of the cryptocurrency mixers Bitcoin Fog.
For ten years, the "fog" has been able to successfully hide their clients' money in the equivalent of cryptocurrencies from law enforcement agencies. However, now the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced the capture of the Russian-Swedish administrator of Bitcoin Fog Roman Sterlingov. Most of the money laundered with the mixer was used by various shops specialising in the sale of illegal substances on the darknet.
The history of Bitcoin Fog, like most crypto projects, began with the BitcoinTalk forum. Sterling created a theme in which he promoted his own website under the nickname Akemashite Omedetou. He informed users that now they can "mix" their Bitcoins in a common pool with others, having received total anonymity at the exit and preventing any possibility of communication between the deposit and withdrawal of funds within the service.
More than 1.2 million BTC were carried through the mixer which was about $336 million at the exchange rate at the time of transactions and more than 65 billion at the current rate of the cryptoasset. Among those who transferred the funds, US law enforcement officers found Silk Road, Agora, AlphaBay, Silk Road 2.0, and Evolution stores. All of them were the largest trading platforms for psychoactive substances. From these payments, the Bitcoin Fog administrator received from 2 to 2.5%. The total amount of income he received from the IRS site is estimated at $8 million.
The funniest thing was that the attacker was not betrayed by one of the accomplices, but by his own trail of transactions ten years ago! The financial transactions that brought the IRS to Sterling were transfers of the now-defunct Liberty Reserve token when setting up the hosting of the cryptomixer server. Initially, he converted euros into BTC on the infamous Mt.Gox crypto exchange, after which he transferred Bitcoins to several addresses and, on another exchange, exchanged some of them for Liberty Reserve. This chain became the main lead for the feds. They traced his phone number, home address, and Google account through transactions on Mt.Gox. Then they found a document on Sterling's Google Drive, in which he described not only the process of hiding Bitcoin payments but also how exactly he acquired Liberty Reserve. In 2019, the IRS brought undercover agents into the case. They sent a message to the Bitcoin Fog administrator, clarifying that they want to launder the funds received from the sale of ecstasy. There was no response, but the transactions were completed. Now the service continues to work, although the services do not comment on who runs it.
This case clearly demonstrates how a sincere belief in the anonymity of Bitcoin has become detrimental to a person engaged in illegal activities. Hopefully, the story will be a good reason to think about the fact that the Bitcoin blockchain resembles a ledger. Despite the limitation period of the illegal activities with the participation of Bitcoin, sooner or later the perpetrators will be brought to justice if the special services are interested in transactions. And, of course, Sterling's case will be another reason to gloat for those who still believe that the main cryptocurrency is used exclusively as a means of payment on the darknet.