21 American citizens have been charged with a variety of crimes by federal prosecutors in Texas for allegedly assisting several criminal gangs to use cryptocurrencies to launder their illicit wealth. Of the 21 accused, at least four have already pleaded guilty to the charges.
The Department of Justice (DOJ), the U.S. Secret Service (USSS), the Postal Inspection Service (PIS), and the U.S. Postal Service’s law enforcement division, conducted the multi-year investigation known as Operation Crypto Runner.
As per a news release released on Wednesday, the operation has halted more than $300 million in yearly money laundering activities, seized and forfeited millions in cash and cryptocurrency, and identified thousands of victims.
Each of the 21 people detained as part of Operation Crypto Runner had a significant role in international fraud and illegal activities, according to the prosecution, working as domestic money launderers for their foreign co-conspirators.
On November 2, Zenobia Walker, a 65-year-old woman from Maryland, received an 18-month prison term when she admitted her involvement in the scheme. She received over $300,000 from people who had fallen for romance scams and other types of fraud, deposited the money in her bank accounts, converted it to cryptocurrency, and then gave the cryptocurrency to her foreign co-conspirators.
Tulasidas Konda, 57, Lois Boyd, 76, and Deependra Bhusal, 46, all from Texas and Virginia— pleaded guilty to charges related to a multi-year money laundering conspiracy for the proceeds of multiple schemes.
As the alleged mastermind behind the scheme, Konda set up bank accounts and post offices where scam victims’ money could be received, converted to cryptocurrency, and then sent to wallets under the control of the group’s international partners. In total, the three allegedly laundered around $6 million, according to a government statement.
William Smarr, special agent in charge of the U.S. Secret Service’s Dallas field office said in the release that the announcement demonstrates the investigative capabilities of the Secret Service and highlights the success of our collaborative efforts through Operation Crypto Runner to dismantle and disrupt transnational money laundering networks
The second group of ten defendants has been accused of participating in a wire and mail fraud conspiracy that allegedly employed phoney technical support schemes to induce victims to contribute money, frequently by utilising front firms and business bank accounts that were set up to resemble real businesses.
John Khuu, 27, of California, and Sharena Seay, 37, of Florida, two additional defendants, have been charged with money laundering for two different alleged plans to use cryptocurrency to launder funds associated with drug trafficking activities.
The announcement, according to William Smarr, special agent in charge of the U.S. Secret Service’s Dallas field office, shows off the agency’s investigative skills and highlights the accomplishments of our joint efforts through Operation Crypto Runner to weaken and destabilize money laundering networks.