US Justice Department Increases Focus On Crypto Crime With New Enforcement Team

Per a Wall Street Journal report, the U.S. Department of Justice is redesigning its National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET), a unit created nearly two years ago to investigate cryptocurrency-related crimes.

According to senior Justice Department official Nicole Argentieri, the NCET will become a permanent fixture of a section within the department’s criminal division that handles a range of computer-related investigations and will also get a new leader, Claudia Quiroz, following the departure of its current director, Eun Young Choi.

Criminal Division prosecutors will also work with other government agencies to address the ransomware problem.

Justice Department Ramps Up Crypto Enforcement Efforts

The NCET was launched in 2021 to investigate and prosecute criminal offenses involving the abuse of cryptocurrency, particularly crimes committed by virtual currency exchanges, mixing and tumbling services, and money laundering infrastructure actors. 

Since then, the team has played a role in many of the Justice Department’s crypto-related cases, including investigating Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, and bringing charges against the founder and majority shareholder of Hong Kong-based exchange Bitzlato.

Per the announcement, the merger will double the number of attorneys available to work on criminal cryptocurrency matters and elevate cryptocurrency work within the Criminal Division by giving it equal status to computer crime and intellectual property work.

The Director of NCET will personally have the authority to approve charging decisions and other steps in investigations and litigation.

Furthermore, the reorganization will put the prosecutors working on cryptocurrency-related cases on equal footing with those working on computer and intellectual property-related cases. The NCET’s revamp follows the creation of a National Security Cyber Section by the Justice Department, which will focus on cyberattacks by nation-state actors and other cyber-related threats to US national security. 

According to Nicole Argentieri, the organizational changes reflect the recognition by the Justice Department’s leadership that expertise in digital assets and other emerging technologies is critical to staying ahead of criminal and national security-related threats facing the US.

The merger announcement is a significant step in the fight against cybercrime. It shows the Department of Justice’s commitment to avoiding emerging threats posed by the nascent industry and other emerging technologies. 

As the digital assets industry continues to grow, the Justice Department’s efforts to combat cryptocurrency-related offenses will play an increasingly critical role in maintaining the financial system’s integrity and protecting the public from criminal activity.

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