The US Department of Justice (DoJ) recently announced ambitious plans to expand its specialized crypto crime unit, doubling the number of staff and initiating leadership changes. This action signifies the Department’s commitment to curbing illicit activities associated with digital currencies.
An Expanded Focus on Cryptocurrency Crime
On July 20th, the DoJ publicized remarks by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole Argentieri during a session at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. During her address, Argentieri unveiled the Department’s strategy to merge two dedicated teams – the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) and the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET).
As a result of this merger, the NCET will bolster its ongoing operations, which revolve around investigating and prosecuting criminal offenses involving cryptocurrency misuse. Argentieri lauded the NCET as “an extraordinarily successful initiative.” She explained that integrating it with a larger entity like the CCIPS will furnish added resources, considerably amplifying its effectiveness.
Post-merger, the pool of attorneys available to tackle criminal cryptocurrency issues will surge. Any CCIPS attorney potentially has the chance to handle an NCET case. Additionally, the NCET will gain unprecedented access to broader computer crime and intellectual property assignments.
Leadership Transition: From Choi to Quiroz
The DoJ crypto crime unit will also witness a shift in leadership. Argentieri expressed her gratitude to the unit’s inaugural Director, Eun Young Choi, and introduced Claudia Quiroz as Choi’s successor. Quiroz, an accomplished former assistant attorney from the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, has already demonstrated her commitment and expertise in this arena as a deputy director of NCET from the team’s inception.
The newly-expanded and invigorated unit’s immediate mandate will intensify efforts against ransomware crimes. To that end, the NCET will trace criminals through their cryptocurrency transactions. It will also implement strategies to freeze or seize these assets “before they are funneled to ransomware hubs like Russia.”
Since its formation in 2021 as part of the DoJ Cryptocurrency Enforcement Framework, the NCET has remained steadfast in its focus on thefts and hacks involving decentralized finance, with particular attention to “chain bridges.” As the unit ventures into this new phase, it reaffirms its dedication to mitigating crypto crime and fortifying the cybersecurity landscape in the United States.
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