The alleged operator of the illicit BTC-e cryptocurrency exchange was extradited yesterday from Greece to the United States to face charges in the Northern District of California.
“After more than five years of litigation, Russian citizen Alexander Vinnik was extradited to the United States yesterday to be held responsible for operating BTC-e, a criminal cryptocurrency exchange, which laundered more than $4 billion of criminal proceeds,” said the Assistant Attorney General. Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice. “This extradition demonstrates the Department’s commitment to investigate and remove illicit cyber activity and would not have been possible without the relentless work of the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs. The Department of Justice thanks the Government of Greece, particularly the Ministry of Justice, for all their efforts to secure the defendant’s transfer to the United States.”
Alexander Vinnik, 42, a Russian citizen, was charged in a 21-count indictment that he superseded in January 2017. Vinnik was taken into custody in Greece in July 2017 at the request of the United States. He made his initial appearance earlier today in federal court in San Francisco before US Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim.
According to the indictment, Vinnik and his co-conspirators allegedly owned, operated, and administered BTC-e, a significant online cybercrime and money laundering entity that allowed its users to trade in bitcoin at high levels of anonymity and have developed a highly addicted customer base. about criminal activity.
The indictment alleges that BTC-e facilitated transactions for cybercriminals around the world and received criminal proceeds from numerous computer intrusions and hacking incidents, ransomware scams, identity theft schemes, corrupt public officials, and narcotics distribution rings, and has been used to facilitate crimes ranging from computer hacking, to fraud, identity theft, tax refund fraud schemes, public corruption, and drug trafficking. The investigation showed that BTC-e received more than $ 4 billion of bitcoin during its operation.
Despite doing substantial business in the US, the indictment alleges that BTC-e was not registered as a money services business with the US Treasury Department, had no anti-laundering process of money, no system for “know your customer” or “” proper. KYC”, and no anti-money laundering program as required by federal law.
In 2017, FinCEN assessed a civil money penalty against BTC-e for willfully violating US anti-money laundering (AML) laws and against Vinnik for his role in the violation. A civil matter to enforce civil monetary penalties, in the amount of $88,596,314 with respect to BTC-e and $12 million with respect to Vinnik, is pending in the Northern District of California.
The indictment charges BTC-e and Vinnik with one count of operating a money service business without a license, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Additionally, the indictment charges Vinnik with 17 counts of money laundering and two counts of engaging in illegal monetary transactions.
The FBI, the IRS Criminal Investigation (Oakland Field Office and Cyber Crime Unit, Washington, D.C.), Homeland Security Investigations, and the Criminal Investigative Division of the United States Secret Service are investigating the – case.
Trial Attorney C. Alden Pelker of the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of the Department of Justice, and Assistant United States Attorney Claudia Quiroz of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California are prosecuting the case.
The Department of Justice’s National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team provided substantial assistance. The extradition request was handled by the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs.
The Department of Justice thanks the Greek Ministry of Justice for its cooperation in securing the defendant’s transfer to the United States.
An accusation is simply an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.