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Bitcoin Fog founder convicted in $400m crypto laundering case

bitcoin-fog-founder-convicted-crypto-laundering
Edited by
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Bitcoin Fog founder convicted in $400m crypto laundering case

The founder of crypto mixing service Bitcoin Fog has been found guilty by a federal court of laundering money linked to illicit drug sales on the dark web.

On Tuesday, a deliberation that lasted approximately two days led the jury to find Roman Sterlingov responsible for obscuring the origins of crypto transactions, thereby complicating efforts to trace the financial proceeds from criminal endeavors. The prosecution argued that Bitcoin Fog had been instrumental in masking over $400 million in transactions, with $78 million directly tied to notorious dark web marketplaces.

Sterlingov’s conviction marks another significant victory in the United States’ intensified efforts to combat cryptocurrency-related criminal activities. The series of legal actions also includes the notable conviction of FTX’s co-founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, and the latest settlement with Binance. Sterlingov, holding dual Russian and Swiss citizenship, refuted claims of his involvement with Bitcoin Fog during the trial.

Sterlingov now faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on four charges of money laundering, having already spent nearly three years in detention.

Throughout the trial, which extended over a month, the prosecution demonstrated how investigators traced cryptocurrency transactions from dark web platforms through Bitcoin Fog. The trial also outlined a complex procedure allegedly employed by Sterlingov over a decade ago to register the Bitcoin Fog domain name.

Further evidence presented by the prosecution suggested Sterlingov engaged in minor transactions from an account under his name, purportedly to test Bitcoin Fog’s operations before its 2011 launch. Sterlingov admitted to using Bitcoin Fog but denied collecting any fees, contrary to the prosecution’s assertions.

Crypto laundering becomes widespread

Sterlingov’s case underscores the growing concern over cryptocurrency’s role in money laundering, especially through services designed to anonymize transactions. A recent report by Chainalysis for 2024 highlights a worrying trend of increased laundering activities via crypto mixers.

The report sheds light on the dominant role of transactions linked to sanctioned entities, accounting for 61.5% of all tracked illicit transactions, amounting to $14.9 billion in 2023. Many of these transactions involve cryptocurrency services under sanctions by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) or are based in sanctioned jurisdictions. 

Among the significant contributors to this volume was the Russia-based exchange Garantex, which was sanctioned for laundering money for ransomware attackers and other cyber criminals. The latest case again highlights the complex challenges in regulating cryptocurrency transactions globally.