In a crucial move to combat criminal activities both on the darknet and associated with cryptocurrencies, several U.S. federal enforcement agencies have joined forces to establish the Darknet Marketplace and Digital Currency Crimes Task Force. The announcement was made public on June 20, indicating an intensifying focus on crimes, including drug trafficking, money laundering, child exploitation, and theft of personal data.
Who is involved in the task force?
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Arizona, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigations, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service constitute the major pillars of this task force. These agencies have been collaborating since 2017, and their strengthened alliance formalizes their efforts to investigate crypto-enabled crimes and darknet activities.
According to the new task force, the rise of digital currencies has provided new tools for criminals to conduct illicit activities and launder money. Technology and the anonymity it often provides have significantly complicated law enforcement’s purview, pushing agencies to adapt their tools, resources, and intelligence capabilities.
Working with businesses and industries that manage the very financial systems terrorists and criminal organizations seek to exploit, Homeland Security Investigations seized nearly $4 BILLION in cryptocurrency from illicit activities last year. #fraud #police #AML #finance pic.twitter.com/VbGz3bj2ny— Homeland Security Investigations (@HSI_HQ) June 16, 2023
The primary function of the task force will be to disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations that exploit new technologies being built in Web3 and the obscurity of the darknet.
“HSI and our partners have been working at the forefront of combating criminal activities facilitated through the use of cryptocurrency on dark web marketplaces and other anonymous platforms,” said HSI Arizona Special Agent in Charge Scott Brown via a press release. “This task force will have impactful repercussions on those criminal operators who attempt to grow their businesses and launder the illicit proceeds through advancing technology.”
In recent years, the collaborating agencies have successfully investigated and prosecuted several significant cases. These include drug trafficking rings leveraging the darknet and crypto and individuals dealing in fentanyl and other drugs online.
Changing with the times
Notably, the Darknet Marketplace and Digital Currency Crimes Task Force isn’t the only unit focusing on crypto-related crimes. The FBI established a Virtual Asset Exploitation Unit in 2022, and the Justice Department has a National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team that has been around since 2021. Furthermore, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) significantly expanded its Cyber Unit last year, reflected by its recent crackdowns on the crypto industry.
The Darknet Marketplace and Digital Currency Crimes Task Force represents the latest step in an evolving strategy to address the challenges posed by the integration of digital currencies and the internet into criminal activities. Law enforcement agencies worldwide, including Interpol and local Canadian police forces, have also established specialized units to tackle these crimes.
While this particular task force is based in Arizona, its efforts will have a global reach, given HSI’s international footprint with 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. With this coordinated approach, U.S. law enforcement is sending a clear message to those who exploit technology for illegal purposes: they can be uncovered, prosecuted, and penalized.
Editor’s note: This article was written by an nft now staff member in collaboration with OpenAI’s GPT-4.