The US Department of Justice is doubling down on its crypto team and targeting ransomware crimes

The United States Department of Justice (DoJ) has announced that it will double the staffing of its crypto-crime team, established two years ago. The number of acting prosecutors in the unit will more than double and there will be a new leader.

On July 20, the DoJ released comments from Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. In his speech, Argentieri announced the merger of two DoJ Criminal Division teams: the Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) and the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET).

After joining the CCIPS, the NCET will continue its activities in the investigation and prosecution of criminal offenses related to the misuse of cryptocurrencies. Argentieri called NCET “a hugely successful startup” and emphasized that merging with a larger structure would give it new additional resources.

The number of Criminal Division attorneys available to work on criminal cryptocurrency cases will “more than double” as any CCIPS attorney could potentially be assigned to an NCET case. NCET will also have access to computer crime and intellectual property work.

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The structure will have a new acting director. Argentina thanked the NCET’s inaugural director, Eun Young Choi, for his work and named Claudia Queiroz as the new head of the team. Queiroz, a former assistant counsel for the US Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of California, has been one of the original deputy directors of the NCET since its inception.

The immediate task for the new “supercharged” unit will be to fight ransomware crimes. The NCET will focus on tracking criminals through their crypto payments, freezing or confiscating them “before they move to Russia and other ransomware hotspots”.

The NCET is slated to launch in 2021 as part of the DoJ’s Cryptocurrency Enforcement Framework. In May 2023, its former director, Yoon Young Choi, said that the department was focusing on thefts and hacks involving DeFi and “specifically Chain Bridge”.

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