America taps 150+ prosecutors to fight cryptocurrency crime

As President Biden rolls out a blueprint for future regulations

The US Department of Justice has tapped more than 150 federal prosecutors to form a team keenly focused on cracking down on cryptocurrency-related crimes, it announced on Friday.

Dubbed the Digital Asset Coordinators Network, this group will be led by the DoJ's National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET). The assembled attorneys will, it's hoped, receive training to understand cryptocurrency technologies, gain technical expertise, and learn how best to investigate and prosecute criminal cases.

"Developments in digital assets have created a new landscape for criminals to exploit innovation to further significant criminal and national security threats domestically and abroad," Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite Jr said in a statement.

"Through the creation of the DAC Network, the Criminal Division and the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team will continue to ensure that the Department and its prosecutors are best positioned to combat the ever-evolving criminal uses of digital asset technology."

Eun Young Choi, who was previously the Senior Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General, will lead the NCET. Choi said cryptocurrency crimes are complicated and require prosecutors with expertise from different areas, such as tax, national security, or environment.

"Digital-asset crimes are truly multidisciplinary," she told the Wall Street Journal. "They are cross-border, complex, and challenging investigations and they require a certain level of competency."

The Digital Asset Coordinators Network's launch is part of a wider effort by the US government to regulate the cryptocurrency industry.

President Biden signed an executive order in March promising to roll out policies and rally agencies to better protect folks and businesses from the risks of digital assets, keep the country's economy stable and secure, and prevent illicit financial crimes.

On Friday, the White House emitted details of a framework developed over six months by government officials as a result of that order. The framework lays out what federal agencies and departments need to do next.

It's pretty extensive. It includes stepping up efforts to regulate cryptocurrency platforms and other non-bank payment providers; make cross-border payments easier; ensure digital assets can be used fairly and inclusively by all; improve cybersecurity at financial orgs; investigate boosting the security and reducing the environmental impact of cryptocurrencies; track the energy use of digital assets; extend rules against illicit finance to crypto-coins and tokens; and disrupt criminals who rely on digital assets.

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It also calls for the exploration of a US Central Bank Digital Currency – a digital dollar of some kind – that can be used for payments perhaps as an alternative to independent crypto-coins and tokens.

At this stage, it's all planning, research, and brain storming. Hard policies and rules and regulations will be developed over time as the federal government converges on a plan for cryptocurrencies, seemingly to mitigate the downsides and tackling crime without going as far as banning it or the like. The tokens can be used for legit purposes, after all.

Drilling down into the plans, the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science Foundation will develop a Digital Assets Research and Development Agenda to boost research into cryptography, cybersecurity, and blockchain technologies.

The Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency will be tasked with monitoring the environmental impact of mining cryptocurrencies and carrying out financial transactions.

"The United States has an interest in responsible financial innovation, expanding access to safe and affordable financial services, and reducing the cost of domestic and cross-border funds transfers and payments, including through the continued modernization of public payment systems," President Biden's order stated. ®

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