Bitcoin Fog Operator Convicted for Stealing Over $400M

A federal jury in Washington, D.C., has convicted Roman Sterlingov, a dual Russian-Swedish national, for operating the notorious darknet cryptocurrency mixer, Bitcoin Fog.

This service, which has operated since 2011, facilitated the laundering of approximately $400 million in cryptocurrency, marking a significant victory against cybercrime.

Bitcoin Fog Operation and Conviction

Bitcoin Fog emerged as the longest-running Bitcoin money laundering service on the darknet, offering criminals a veil of anonymity for their illicit transactions.

According to Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, Sterlingov’s belief in the invincibility of his operations within the “shadows of the internet” was proven wrong as the jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts.

This conviction sends a clear message:

cryptocurrency services reaching the United States must comply with U.S. law, regardless of their operational base.

Over its decade-long operation, Bitcoin Fog processed over 1.2 million bitcoins, sourced predominantly from darknet marketplaces.

These funds were tied to a range of illegal activities, including narcotics trafficking, computer crimes, identity theft, and child sexual abuse material.

Acting as a “mixer,” Bitcoin Fog obscured the origins of these illicit funds, making it a go-to service for criminals seeking to launder their proceeds away from the prying eyes of law enforcement.

The US government’s official website reported the conviction of the operator of Bitcoin Fog on charges of conspiracy to launder money.

Roman Sterlingov’s Involvement

At 35 years old, Roman Sterlingov was found to have played a pivotal role in the operation of Bitcoin Fog from its inception in 2011 through to 2021.

His conviction on charges of money laundering conspiracy, sting money laundering, and operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business highlights the seriousness with which the U.S. justice system treats such cybercrime.

Sterlingov now faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for the money laundering charges and up to five years for the unlicensed money transmission charges.

The FBI Washington Field recently tweeted that the operator of Bitcoin Fog has been convicted of a conspiracy to launder money.

This refers to a case involving using a cryptocurrency mixing service to conceal the origin and destination of funds.

U.S. Law Enforcement’s Pursuit and Investigation

The conviction of Sterlingov is a testament to the relentless pursuit of justice by U.S. law enforcement agencies, including the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) District of Columbia Cyber Crime Unit and the FBI Washington Field Office.

These agencies, along with international partners such as Europol and the Swedish Economic Crime Authority, meticulously traced the complex financial trails left by Bitcoin Fog through the blockchain.

This collaborative effort underscores the global commitment to combating the use of technology in facilitating crimes in cyberspace.

The case against Sterlingov was spearheaded by trial attorneys Jeff Pearlman and C. Alden Pelker of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS), demonstrating the specialized expertise required to prosecute crimes in the rapidly evolving domain of cryptocurrency.

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, this conviction serves as a critical reminder of the legal and ethical boundaries that govern the use of technology.

The fall of Bitcoin Fog marks a significant milestone in the fight against cybercrime, reinforcing the message that anonymity in the digital world is not beyond the reach of law enforcement.

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