The operator of the Bitcoin “mixer” known as Helix has pleaded guilty to a felony charge of money laundering. He admitted to operating the service out of his own home from September 2013 through May 2014, where hundreds of thousands of dollars in Bitcoin were received and then sent through a series of transactions that led to a roughly $9,000 profit. He will be sentenced February 27, 2015.
Robert Faiella, the operator of the Helix Bitcoin mixer, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business.
A man who operates a bitcoin “mixing” service has pleaded guilty to operating an unlicensed money services business. Matthew Skweres, 20, of Los Angeles, pleaded guilty on November 13 to one count of operating an unlicensed money services business and a sentencing date was set for December 18. According to the plea agreement, Skweres admitted he failed to register with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) as an MSB in the state of California.. Read more about who runs bitcoin and let us know what you think.
The US Justice Department said on Wednesday that the operator of a bitcoin “mixer” pled guilty to money laundering conspiracy.
Larry Dean Harmon, the owner of Helix, pled guilty to conspiracy to launder monetary instruments on Wednesday. In a videoconference call to a federal court in Washington, D.C., he submitted his plea.
According to court records, Mr. Harmon, who is presently free on bond in Akron, Ohio, will be sentenced at a later date and may face up to 20 years in jail.
Customers pay a fee to transfer bitcoins to a specified address via a virtual currency “mixer” or “tumbler,” which hides the source or owner of the money.
Mr. Harmon had previously been fined $60 million by the US Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network in October for allegedly breaching anti-money-laundering rules.
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Mr. Harmon, 38, was detained last year on charges of money laundering, operating an illegal money-transmitting company, and conducting money transmission without a license in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Harmon ran Helix, a Darknet-based cryptocurrency-laundering business that authorities said laundered more than $300 million in bitcoin between 2014 and 2017. According to the indictment released in February 2020, Helix was connected to and affiliated with “Grams,” a search engine also operated by Mr. Harmon, and was marketed to clients on the Darknet as a method to hide transactions from law enforcement.
During the hearing on Wednesday, Mr. Harmon acknowledged that he worked with a number of Darknet marketplaces, including AlphaBay, Evolution, Cloud 9, and others, to offer bitcoin money-laundering services to its clients. He also acknowledged that AlphaBay and Evolution provided venues for the purchase of illegal narcotics and other criminal products and services, such as hacking and money laundering.
Prosecutors claim he received fees on the trade of 354,468 bitcoins via Helix, which were worth more over $300 million at the time.
At a Senate committee hearing in May, Kenneth Polite, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s criminal division, is displayed.
Rod Lamkey/CNP/Zuma Press photo
During the hearing, Mr. Harmon’s attorney, Charles Flood, said that they retained the right to argue during sentence that Mr. Harmon didn’t know the precise amount of the transactions laundered via Helix involving drug-trafficking profits. Mr. Flood didn’t go into detail.
Mr. Harmon agreed to surrender more than 4,400 bitcoins, worth at more than $200 million at current rates, and other seized property as part of the plea deal, as well as cooperate with law authorities.
In a press release, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite Jr. of the Justice Government’s Criminal Division stated, “By holding Harmon responsible, the department has disrupted the illegal money laundering activities of these deadly criminal organizations.”
According to Ari Redbord, a former assistant US attorney for the District of Columbia and a former senior advisor at Treasury, Mr. Harmon’s case is one of the first to result in a conviction using a cryptocurrency mixer. The guilty plea demonstrates that US law enforcement is pursuing cryptocurrency mixers with links to the Darknet and illegal operations, and that blockchain openness allows them to track the money.
When compared to government-issued fiat money, the nature of cryptocurrency allows law enforcement to have unique insight into financial movement that they never had previously, according to Mr. Redbord, who is now head of legal and government relations at TRM Labs Inc., a digital currency tracking company.
Mengqi Sun can be reached at [email protected].
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