Taking (Crypto) Criminals to Task: U.S. Deputy AG Monaco Announces New Cybercrime Taskforce – VAXU

Intellectual Property

On February 17, 2022, at the Munich Cyber Security Conference, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco announced a series of new cybercrime initiatives by the Department of Justice (DOJ), including a new, centralized FBI unit – the Virtual Asset Exploitation Unit (VAXU) – to combat cryptocurrency crime.

This unit complements the DOJ’s other recent crypto initiative, the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET, formed in October of 2021), led by Director Eun Yong Choi, a long-time cybercrime prosecutor. The NCET taskforce has already been busy, arresting two alleged cryptocurrency money launderers in connection with a $3.6 billion seizure of bitcoin in early February 2022.

Monaco also announced international initiatives, including an international virtual currency abuse initiative and a Cyber Operations International Liaison in Europe.

Last year Monaco launched the Ransomware and Digital Extortion Task Force, seizing $2.3 million of the ransom paid after the Colonial Pipeline attack and disrupting the R-Evil ransomware group with five arrests and a seizure of $6.1 million in ransom payments. Monaco vowed that she and prosecutors filling these new roles "are issuing a clear warning to criminals who use cryptocurrency to fuel their schemes" and called upon companies dealing with cryptocurrencies to root out cryptocurrency abuses, promising, "those who do not, we will hold you accountable where we can." (Monaco’s full remarks can be found online.)  

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