United Against Digital Currency Crime: Five US Enforcement Agencies Unite to Form New Task Force

In a significant move to tackle crimes associated with the darknet and digital currencies, a collaborative effort among diverse United States enforcement agencies has culminated in the formation of the Darknet Marketplace and Digital Currency Crimes Task Force. Announced on June 20, this task force aims to combat a range of “cryptocurrency-enabled crimes,” including drug trafficking, money laundering, personal information theft, and child exploitation.

Last week, representatives from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Arizona, the Office for U.S. Attorneys, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Postal Inspection Service solidified their commitment by signing a memorandum of understanding to establish the task force.

These agencies have been collaborating since 2017 and have witnessed an upsurge in the utilization of cryptocurrencies for illicit activities during this period. The task force’s mission, as stated in an official statement, is to “disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations that exploit the appearance of anonymity on the darknet or use digital currency to facilitate criminal activities.”

This development aligns with a broader global trend of law enforcement agencies establishing specialized units dedicated to combating crypto-related crimes. Interpol, for instance, established its crypto crimes unit in late 2022, while Canadian cities have been forming local task forces. The newly formed Darknet Marketplace and Digital Currency Crimes Task Force will extend its reach internationally, benefitting from the HSI’s extensive presence with 93 overseas locations spanning 56 countries.

Within the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) took a notable step in February by creating the Virtual Asset Exploitation Unit, which collaborates with the Justice Department’s National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team. In parallel, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) augmented its Cyber Unit last year, effectively doubling its capacity.

Law enforcement agencies face significant challenges as they grapple with the magnitude of the task at hand. Chainalysis, a blockchain analytics firm, estimated in the previous year that more than 4,000 “crypto whales” hold illegally acquired funds. Additionally, crypto phishing attacks escalated by 40% during that period. Nevertheless, there are indications that law enforcement efforts are yielding positive outcomes.

While the formation of the Darknet Marketplace and Digital Currency Crimes Task Force underscores the collective determination to combat digital currency crime, it also serves as a reminder of the ongoing battle between law enforcement and criminal elements in the evolving landscape of cryptocurrencies. Through continued collaboration, specialized units, and international cooperation, these agencies strive to ensure a safer digital ecosystem for all stakeholders involved.

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