American Pleads Guilty To Laundering Over $300 Million In Bitcoin
A man in Ohio pled guilty on Wednesday to laundering over US$300 million in bitcoin through his cryptocurrency service accessible on the Darknet.
At its core, Helix gave customers the means to conceal their illicit transactions from law enforcement. The service could be accessed through a Darknet search engine known as Grams, which was also run by Harmon.
Over 350,000 bitcoin found their way through Harmon’s mixer. The total valuation of these transactions is over $300 million.
Bitcoin is a highly versatile method of payment on the Darknet, which offers a wide range of illegal services. Chief James C. Lee of the IRS Criminal Investigation stated that, “these marketplaces thrive in large measure because of the infrastructure that supports them.”
Ultimately, Harmon played a direct role in bolstering such markets, through “facilitating back-channel support” and helping criminals “launder money they received via illicit activities,” according to Lee.
The investigation was conducted by the IRS-CI Cyber Crimes Unit and the FBI’s Washington Field Office, with assistance from several other U.S. law enforcement bodies.
As part of his guilty plea, Harmon admitted to conspiring to launder bitcoin generated by those engaged in drug trafficking and other illegal activities.
He also admitted to partnering with several Darknet markets, in order to make Helix accessible to a wider range of customers seeking to launder their money via bitcoin.
Harmon’s guilty plea has him forfeit more than 4,400 bitcoin, currently valued at over $200 million as well as properties which were used as a base for his money laundering operations.
Sentencing will take place at a later date. Harmon faces up to 20 years in prison as well as either a fine of $500,000 or a fine of double the value of his forfeited properties.