The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has seized $9 million in tether (USDT) allegedly linked to “pig butchering” crypto scams. The Justice Department explained that U.S. Secret Service agents and analysts tracked the laundering of victims’ crypto deposits through numerous cryptocurrency addresses, where they were exchanged for various cryptocurrencies.
DOJ Seizes $9M in USDT
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Tuesday “the seizure of nearly $9 million worth of tether, a cryptocurrency pegged to the U.S. dollar.” The Justice Department detailed:
These seized funds were traced to cryptocurrency addresses allegedly associated with an organization that exploited over 70 victims through romance scams and cryptocurrency confidence scams, which are widely known as ‘pig butchering.’
Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division explained that these scammers target regular investors through deceptive websites, falsely claiming that their investments are generating profits. “The truth is that these international criminal actors are simply stealing cryptocurrency and leaving victims with nothing,” she said.
The acting attorney general stressed: “The department hopes this recovery of assets will bring some closure and a sense of justice to the over 70 victims affected by this series of scams.”
Court documents reveal that criminals collaborate to convince victims to deposit cryptocurrency by falsely portraying the transactions as investments with reputable firms and cryptocurrency exchanges. “In reality, the purported firms and cryptocurrency exchanges were non-existent trading platforms,” the DOJ noted.
“Agents and analysts from the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) were able to trace those victim deposits and observed that the funds were quickly laundered through dozens of cryptocurrency addresses and exchanged for several different cryptocurrencies, a money laundering technique often referred to as ‘chain hopping,’” the Justice Department continued, adding:
These techniques are used to ‘layer’ the proceeds of criminal activity into new cryptocurrency ecosystems, all to obfuscate the nature, source, control, and ownership of those proceeds.
This week, Tether announced that it voluntarily froze $225 million in USDT in connection with a DOJ investigation relating to pig butchering crypto schemes. Tether called it “the largest-ever freeze of USDT in history.”
A concerning trend of pig butchering crypto scams has been sweeping across the globe, prompting urgent warnings from law enforcement agencies worldwide. In August last year, U.S. authorities expressed concern over the alarming popularity of pig butchering scams. In April of this year, the DOJ seized cryptocurrency worth $112 million in a pig butchering scam crackdown. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a warning last week, highlighting that U.S. taxpayers are currently the most targeted demographic for pig butchering schemes.
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