BTC mixer Helix founder pleads guilty to money laundering charges, faces 20 years

The operator of a BTC mixing service that reportedly catered to criminals in the dark web has pleaded guilty to money laundering charges. Larry Dean Harmon is accused of helping criminals move 350,000 BTC through his mixing service and was heavily linked to infamous dark web marketplace AlphaBay.

Harmon, 38, operated Helix BTC mixer from 2014 to 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The platform enabled its users to send BTC to other addresses in a “manner that was designed to conceal the source or owner of the [BTC].” Harmon allegedly advertised Helix as a service that would help its users conceal transactions from law enforcement.

In his guilty plea, Harmon admitted that his platform partnered with several darknet marketplaces, including AlphaBay, Evolution and Cloud 9 to provide BTC money laundering services to their customers. He admitted to moving at least 350,000 BTC, which at the time of the transactions were worth $300 million. In today’s market, this stash would be worth $15.6 billion.

As part of his plea, the Akron, Ohio resident agreed to forfeit 4,400 BTC, which at press time is worth about $196 million, as well as other properties that were part of the money laundering process.

Harmon will be sentenced at a later date. He faces a maximum of 20 years behind bars and a $500,000 fine, or twice the value of the property involved in the crimes. He also faces not more than three years of supervised release as well as mandatory restitution.

Assistant Director in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono of the FBI’s Washington Field Office warned criminals that using digital currencies doesn’t protect them from the long arm of the law.

“Harmon admitted that he conspired with Darknet vendors to launder bitcoin generated through drug trafficking and other illegal activities. Today’s guilty plea demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to infiltrate and shut down the cryptocurrency money-laundering networks that support cyber-criminal enterprises,” D’Antuono said.

Harmon’s guilty plea comes less than a year since the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network hit him with a $60 million penalty for violating the Bank Secrecy Act. FinCEN claimed that he willfully failed to implement an effective anti-money laundering program on Helix, despite being aware of the requirement.

Follow CoinGeek’s Crypto Crime Cartel series, which delves into the stream of groups—from BitMEX to BinanceBitcoin.comBlockstreamShapeShift, and Ethereum—who have co-opted the digital asset revolution and turned the industry into a minefield for naïve (and even experienced) players in the market.

New to Bitcoin? Check out CoinGeek’s Bitcoin for Beginners section, the ultimate resource guide to learn more about Bitcoin—as originally envisioned by Satoshi Nakamoto—and blockchain.

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