The Justice Department on Thursday announced its first director of the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team, Eun Young Choi, who will be charged with prosecuting criminal cases related to the use of cryptocurrency and digital assets.
The rise of cryptocurrency has given criminals an avenue for cyberattacks, ransomware and extortion schemes, as well as trafficking narcotics and selling illicit goods online in an untraceable manner, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said in a news release announcing Choi’s appointment.
“The NCET will play a pivotal role in ensuring that as the technology surrounding digital assets grows and evolves, the department in turn accelerates and expands its efforts to combat their illicit abuse by criminals of all kinds,” Choi said in the release.
A graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law, Choi served as senior counsel to deputy attorney general Lisa O. Monaco. Monaco was recently involved in the arrest of an alleged conspiracy to launder $4.5 billion in stolen cryptocurrency from the 2016 hack of Bitfinex, a virtual currency exchange. The Manhattan couple involved in the alleged scheme set up fictitious accounts and used a variety of virtual currency exchanges to hide the trail of money.
Choi herself has served as prosecutor in cases such as the hacking of J.P. Morgan and other banks, in which a Russian operator revealed the identities of over 83 million accounts. She was also leading the only U.S. prosecution brought in connection with the “Panama Papers,” a leak of involving millions of records of wrongdoing from offshore companies to hide the personal wealth of powerful people, from prime ministers to monarchs to oligarchs.
The appointment comes at a time when tensions between Russia and the United States are escalating and after a series of cyberattacks from Russian actors, such as the hacking of the Colonial Pipeline back in May.
Michelle Shen is a Money & Tech Digital Reporter for USA TODAY. You can reach her @michelle_shen10 on Twitter.