The United States Department of Justice announced that it had seized approximately $9 million in Tether (USDT) after the stablecoin’s issuer froze funds related to a criminal organization responsible for romance scams.
In a Nov. 21 announcement, the Justice Department said the seized funds came from “scammers who stole millions from victims across the United States” and were presumably part of Tether’s efforts to freeze $225 million worth of USDT. dollars in “self-custodied external wallets.” related to the scam. The funds were allegedly linked to an organization responsible for “pig slaughter” romance scams, in which bad actors attempt to develop an online relationship with unsuspecting individuals, often convincing them to invest in legitimate businesses before scamming them.
“These scammers prey on everyday investors by creating websites that tell victims that their investments are working to make them money,” said Acting Deputy Attorney General Nicole Argentieri. “The truth is that these international criminal actors are simply stealing cryptocurrency and leaving victims with nothing. […] Although the current landscape of the cryptocurrency ecosystem may seem like an ideal way to launder ill-gotten gains, authorities will continue to develop the expertise necessary to track the money and recover it for victims.”
Cyber Scam Organization Disrupted by Seizure of Nearly $9 Million in Cryptocurrency pic.twitter.com/kVP8f2ogBo
– Criminal Division (@DOJCrimDiv) November 21, 2023
According to the Department of Justice, U.S. Secret Service analysts tracked the cryptocurrency, which had been laundered through different wallet addresses and exchanges, a practice called “chain hopping.” The US government also recognized Tether’s contribution “for his assistance in effecting the transfer of these assets.”
Related: ‘Sodl’ too soon: US government missed Bitcoin profits now totaling $6 billion
US officials have previously used their authority to seize illicit funds linked to cryptocurrency scams and crimes, such as when they took control of approximately 70,000 Bitcoin (BTC) linked to Silk Road in 2020. Crypto company 21.co reported in October that the US government had more than $5 billion in cryptocurrency according to its seizure analysis.
On Nov. 21, the Justice Department said it planned to announce “major cryptocurrency enforcement actions” in coordination with the U.S. Treasury and Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Many speculated that the announcement referred to a $4 billion deal with Binance, in which Changpeng Zhao reportedly plans to resign.
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