The Justice Department will more than double the number of prosecutors available to work on a growing caseload of cryptocurrency-related crimes, the Wall Street Journal reports. Senior Justice Department official Nicole Argentieri said in a speech that the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team, or NCET, would become a permanent fixture of a section within the department’s criminal division that handles a range of computer-related investigations. The team will also get a new leader, with Claudia Quiroz serving as acting director following the departure of its current director, Eun Young Choi, Argentieri said. Choi will be moving on to a new position within the Justice Department, according to a department spokesman.
The Justice Department set up NCET in 2021 amid growing concerns about the ballooning size of the digital-assets industry and the ability of criminals, terrorists and other bad actors to use cryptocurrency to move and launder illicit funds. Since then, the team’s work and profile has grown due to an industry downturn and the collapse of crypto exchange FTX. Prosecutors have charged FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried with stealing billions of dollars from the exchange’s customers while misleading investors and lenders. The crypto team has played a role in many of the Justice Department’s crypto-related cases. It helped bring charges against the founder and majority shareholder of Hong Kong-based exchange Bitzlato, and has assisted with an investigation into Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange. FTX’s crash has increased the sense of urgency among regulators and law-enforcement officials to root out bad actors in the digital-assets industry. At the same time, officials say they are increasingly seeing cryptocurrency play a role in almost every area of the criminal underworld. “It’s a major part of the way we see criminal activity being perpetrated right now,” said Kenneth Polite, the head of the DOJ’s criminal division.