The New York Department of Financial Services has hired former IRS officer Richard Weber as its general counsel. Weber has served in several roles, including at Swiss bank UBS as head of financial crime prevention and at the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) as chief of asset forfeiture. However, in the digital currency industry, he is most widely known for leading investigations into the now defunct darknet marketplace Silk Road.
The Superintendent of Financial Services at the NYDFS Linda Lacewell announced the appointment in a press release on April 28. Lacewell said Weber’s experience sets him apart and will be invaluable to the regulator, noting, “Rich brings unquestioned integrity, legal acumen, and management experience to DFS. His extensive leadership experience and depth of legal knowledge will be vital in helping the state emerge stronger and safer from this unprecedented crisis.”
Weber led the criminal investigation division at the IRS from 2012 to 2017, leading a team of over 3,500 investigators. His division looked into financial crimes such as money laundering, terrorist financing, fraud, tax evasions and bribery. He came to the helm at a time when the use of digital currencies was spiking, making it one of the industries often investigated.
One of his biggest investigations was into Silk Road, a darknet marketplace where transactions were settled in digital currencies. In addition to investigating the criminals who used the marketplace, he also looked into law enforcement agents who got in too deep while investigating Silk Road. One of these was Carl Force, a DEA agent who was found guilty of obstruction of justice, extortion and money laundering. Weber’s investigation was crucial in the conviction, with the DEA agent being sentenced to 78 months in prison and a $340,000 fine.
According to the NYDFS, Weber’s tenure at the IRS saw to the forfeiture of over $15 billion in criminal penalties.
“The mission of DFS has never been more important than it is now. I look forward to joining the talented team Superintendent Lacewell has built that is committed to fighting for New York’s consumers and safeguarding our markets. I am honored to be part of this important agency and serve the people of New York State at this critical time,” Weber stated.
Weber joins an institution that has blown hot and cold in regards to digital currencies. The NYDFS is responsible for the issuing of the BitLicense which allows digital currency operators to serve New Yorkers. The number of companies receiving this license has gone up in recent years, a positive for the industry. On the other hand, some companies have accused the NYDFS of making it nearly impossible to acquire the license, with some choosing to leave New York altogether.
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