US Justice Department to expand crypto team, focus on ransomware crimes.

US Justice Department to expand crypto team, focus on ransomware crimes.

The Growing Efforts to Combat Crypto Crime: US Department of Justice Expands its Crypto Crime Team

In a significant move to tackle the rising cases of crypto-related crimes, the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) has announced plans to strengthen its crypto crime team. The DoJ intends to double the number of staff on its team, which was established in 2021, and appoint a new leader to spearhead the efforts.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole Argentieri made this announcement during her speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Argentieri revealed that two existing DoJ teams, the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) and the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET), would merge to form a more robust unit.

The merger of the CCIPS and the NCET aims to provide the latter with additional resources and support. As Argentieri highlighted, the NCET has been an incredibly successful initiative, often referred to as a “start-up.” By integrating it with the larger CCIPS, the team will have greater access to new resources and expertise.

One of the key benefits of this merger is the significant increase in the number of criminal division attorneys available to work on crypto-related cases. As any CCIPS attorney can now be assigned to work on an NCET case, the number of attorneys dedicated to investigating and prosecuting crypto crimes is expected to more than double. This expanded workforce will enable the team to tackle a broader range of criminal offenses involving the abuse of cryptocurrencies.

In addition to the increased manpower, the NCET will also gain access to the expertise of the CCIPS in computer crime and intellectual property. This collaboration will enhance the team’s capabilities in handling complex cases that involve both crypto-related crimes and other forms of digital misconduct.

The DoJ also announced the appointment of Claudia Quiroz as the new head of the NCET. Quiroz, a former assistant attorney from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, has been serving as the deputy director of the NCET since its inception. Her experience in prosecuting criminal cases, coupled with her knowledge of the crypto landscape, makes her a valuable asset in leading the team’s efforts.

One immediate focus for the newly strengthened unit will be combating ransomware crimes. Ransomware attacks have become a significant concern worldwide, with criminals demanding payments in cryptocurrencies. The NCET will leverage its expertise to track these criminals through their crypto payments and freeze or seize the funds before they can be transferred to ransomware hotspots like Russia.

The establishment of the NCET in 2021 was a crucial step in the DoJ’s broader efforts to address crypto-related crimes. In May 2023, former Director Eun Young Choi stated that the department was particularly focused on thefts and hacks involving decentralized finance, including “chain bridges.” This indicates the DoJ’s commitment to staying ahead of the evolving landscape of crypto-related criminal activities.

The expansion of the DoJ’s crypto crime team is a significant development in the fight against illicit activities in the blockchain industry. By doubling the team’s resources and appointing a new leader, the DoJ is sending a clear message that it is determined to tackle crypto-related crimes head-on.

To keep up with the rapid pace of technological advancements, law enforcement agencies must continually adapt their strategies. The DoJ’s decision to merge the CCIPS and the NCET demonstrates a proactive approach to harnessing the collective expertise of these teams. This integration will undoubtedly empower the NCET to more effectively investigate and prosecute criminals involved in crypto-related offenses.

In conclusion, the expansion of the DoJ’s crypto crime team is a positive step toward safeguarding the integrity of the blockchain industry. With the appointment of Claudia Quiroz as the new head of the NCET, the team is poised to make significant progress in combating ransomware crimes and other forms of crypto-related offenses. By doubling the number of attorneys and merging with the CCIPS, the NCET will have the necessary resources and expertise to tackle a wide range of criminal activities in the crypto space. The DoJ’s commitment to addressing these issues is a testament to the growing importance of blockchain technology and its potential impact on society.