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DoJ appoints heavyweight digital asset prosecutor to lead new US ‘crypto’ team

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The U.S. Department of Justice has tapped a veteran prosecutor with extensive history pursuing digital asset cases to lead their National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team, it was announced Thursday.

That person is Eun Young Choi, whose experience includes an almost decade-long stint as a federal prosecutor. She successfully argued the appeal against Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht and served as the lead prosecutor in a number of digital asset cases, including against the unlicensed exchange Coin.MX. She also led the only U.S. prosecution brought in connection with the Panama Papers.

In the official announcement, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr said:

“With the rapid innovation of digital assets and distributed ledger technologies, we have seen a rise in their illicit use by criminals who exploit them to fuel cyberattacks and ransomware and extortion schemes; traffic in narcotics, hacking tools and illicit contraband online; commit thefts and scams; and launder the proceeds of their crimes.”

“The NCET will serve as the focal point for the department’s efforts to tackle the growth of crime involving these technologies. Eun Young is an accomplished leader on cyber and cryptocurrency issues, and I am pleased that she will continue her service as the NCET’s inaugural Director, spearheading the department’s efforts in this area.”

The National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET) was formed in late 2021 as a part of a multi-fronted commitment by the U.S. to curb digital asset crime. One of the Team’s main focuses is on exchanges and other digital asset infrastructure providers who enable money laundering.

When announcing the NCET in October, Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said that it was formed to “strengthen our capacity to dismantle the financial entities that enable criminal actors to flourish — and quite frankly to profit — from abusing cryptocurrency platforms.”

“The department has been at the forefront of investigating and prosecuting crimes involving digital currencies since their inception,” said Choi in the Department’s announcement.

“The NCET will play a pivotal role in ensuring that as the technology surrounding digital assets grows and evolves, the department in turn accelerates and expands its efforts to combat their illicit abuse by criminals of all kinds. I am excited to lead the NCET’s incredible and talented team of attorneys, and to get to work on this important priority for the department.”

The news is only the latest step in a redoubling of efforts by law enforcement to crack down on digital asset crime. Last year, hackers brought the Colonial Pipeline to its knees in a cyberattack which saw US$5 million worth of digital assets paid in ransom; the Department of Justice successfully recovered most of the ransom. In February, the Department of Justice seized US$3.6 billion worth of digital assets from a couple said to be linked to the 2016 Bitfinex hack.

Watch: CoinGeek New York panel, Investigating Criminal Activity on the Blockchain

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