The US Department of Justice will double its cryptocurrency enforcement teams to combat crime

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The US Department of Justice will expand its digital asset crime enforcement teams in the coming months as part of broader plans to reduce crime involving virtual assets.

in a speech Delivered on July 20, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Nicole Argentieri, the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, revealed the department’s plans to revamp the division.

According to her, the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET) will become a permanent body within the criminal division to handle investigations related to cryptocurrencies.

The NCET, established in 2021, has taken on high-profile investigations and would now be merged with the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS).

Although merged, the NCET would continue to investigate and prosecute related crimes, taking advantage of the larger structure and additional resources.

Now is the time to take NCET to the next level by merging it into [Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section] It will give you the resources and the track to achieve even more.”

The new agreement will see the team get a new leader with Claudia Quitoz as interim director. According to the briefing, former director Eun Young Choi, the former director will be moving to another position within the Department of Justice.

NCET, as an independent unit within CCIPS, will get maximum resources, including prosecutors handling crypto fraud cases, who will be placed on an equal footing with CCIPS.

Staff numbers would also double in key areas as crypto and cybercrime continue to rise in several states.

NCET is a “hugely successful startup”.

Argentieri during his briefing praised the efforts recorded by the NCET in the last two years to address ransomware crimes in the country.

He noted that the team is “supercharged” to follow-up criminals through their crypto transactions and freezing said assets “before they go to Russia and other ransomware hotspots.”

NCET sprang into action with Choi explaining the department’s focus on decentralized financial theft and hacking. Notable among the issues facing the department is the infamous FTX scandal.

The team has helped bring charges against Sam Bankman Fried, including investigations into FTX and its sister company Alameda Research.

In addition to FTX, the team was also leading the case against Bitzlato, a Hong Kong-based digital exchange, and most recently, its investigation into Binance.

Ari Redbord, a former federal prosecutor, noted that the space has changed in recent years, so more reform is needed by prosecutors.

“I think that in recent years DOJ has realized that we have moved into a digital battlefield, where wars are fought on blockchain. The reality is that if this is the future, every prosecutor, every investigator will need to understand these cases.”