FBI charges 6 for running $30m crypto ring

The FBI has charged six individuals over allegations of running an unlicensed crypto money-transmitting operation in New York.

According to an unsealed affidavit of FBI special agent Lawrence Lonergan, six people, Naineshkumar Patel, Nileshkumar Patel and Raju Patel, Shaileshkumar Goyani, Brijeshkumar Patel, and Hirenkumar Patel, operated an illegal money transmitting business between July 2021 and September 2023. 

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) requires virtual currency transmitters and exchangers to register with it and have state licenses before being allowed to operate.  

Per the affidavit, the six used an anonymizer on the dark web called “darknet” to convert cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin (BTC), into cash. 

Of the six accused, one has been granted conditional release by a U.S. magistrate judge, according to CoinDesk citing a filing.

The charges come after years of investigations triggered by the identification of an individual on the dark web in April 2021 who was offering a service to convert Bitcoin into cash and ship it via the U.S. Postal Service’s Express Mail or Priority Mail. 

On Feb. 7, the FBI arrested the individual who had been moving the cash packages through a Westchester, New York post office, upon which they agreed to cooperate with the law enforcement agency.

The FBI’s investigation involved photographic and video surveillance that caught the six accused in the act, running the unregistered and unlicensed business.

Additionally, the informant, who previously worked with the six defendants, said the operation raked in more than $30 million in the period it was active. The unnamed informant also claimed that some clients who used the service were drug dealers and cybercriminals.

They said the service was run through messaging apps, including Telegram and WhatsApp. It also involved in-person cash exchanges where the informant and the defendants would deliver agreed-upon sums of fiat money to customers in exchange for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

The case is the latest following the 2022 National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET) formation, specifically to investigate crypto-related crimes. 

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