21 citizens of the United States have been handed a variety of criminal charges by federal prosecutors in Texas for allegedly assisting various transnational criminal organizations in using cryptocurrency to launder their ill-gotten gains.
The multi-year investigation, which was dubbed Operation Crypto Runner, was carried out by the East Texas branches of the Department of Justice (DOJ), the U.S. Secret Service (USSS), and the Postal Inspection Service (PIS), which is the U.S. Postal Service’s law enforcement division.
A press release issued on Wednesday stated that the operation had “disrupted more than $300 million in annual money laundering transactions, seized and forfeited millions in cash and cryptocurrency, and identified thousands of victims.”
Prosecutors say that the 21 people caught in Operation Crypto Runner’s snare each played a crucial role in international scams and criminal activities by laundering money for their foreign co-conspirators in the United States.
At least four of the 21 accused have already entered guilty pleas.
In January, 65-year-old Zenobia Walker of Maryland entered a guilty plea to her role in a scheme in which she received over $300,000 from victims of romance scams and other fraud schemes, deposited the money in her personal bank accounts, exchanged it for cryptocurrency, and distributed the cryptocurrency to her co-conspirators in other countries. She was condemned to year and a half in jail on Nov. 2.
A further three people, Deependra Bhusal, 46, of Texas, Tulasidas Konda, 57, Lois Boyd, 76, both of Virginia, and Tulasidas Konda, 57, pleaded guilty to charges related to a multi-year money laundering conspiracy for the proceeds of various scams.
Konda, the alleged ringleader, opened bank accounts and mailboxes to receive money from scam victims, exchange it for cryptocurrency, and then send the cryptocurrency to wallets controlled by the three co-conspirators in other countries. According to the government release, the three laundered approximately $6 million together.
Similar accusations have been leveled against two other defendants, Randall Rule, 71, of Nevada, and Gregory Nysewander, 64, of South Carolina, of converting $2.4 million in funds from romance scams, business email compromises, and real estate scams into cryptocurrency for foreign operators.Rule and Nysewander have not declared their innocence.
Another group of ten defendants has been charged with participating in a conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. In this scheme, the perpetrators used fictitious technical support schemes to persuade victims to send money, frequently through business bank accounts disguised as legitimate businesses and shell companies.
John Khuu, a 27-year-old Californian, and Sharena Seay, a 37-year-old Floridan, have been indicted on money laundering charges for two distinct alleged schemes to use crypto to launder money connected to drug trafficking operations.
There are more captures to come, as per the USSS.
In the release, special agent William Smarr, who is in charge of the U.S. Secret Service’s Dallas field office, said, “Today’s announcement demonstrates the investigative capabilities of the Secret Service and highlights the success of our collaborative efforts through Operation Crypto Runner to dismantle and disrupt transnational money laundering networks.”
Smart continued, “These arrests are just the beginning. “We are determined to bring every remaining offender to justice.