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US Seizes $58 Million From Bahamas Bank in Money Laundering Sting

2 mins
Updated by Michael Washburn
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In Brief

  • Federal authorities seize $58 million from a Bahamas bank account suspected of playing a role in laundering crypto funds.
  • Deltec, a Bahamian-based bank popular with crypto clients, is reputedly linked to shell companies involved in a fraud scheme.
  • As if on cue, Ben McKenzie, a popular actor, adds his voice to those criticizing cryptocurrency and so-called casino capitalism.
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Federal authorities in the United States have seized $58 million dollars from a Bahamas bank account suspected of laundering crypto funds.

Last month, in a court in the Eastern District of Virginia, US officials filed for a warrant for the seizure of funds in a Bahamas-based Deltec Bank and Trust account. Officials suspected bad actors of using the account for wire fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering. Authorities have linked certain Deltec customers to shell firms involved in a cross-border scheme. It allegedly involves creating fake cryptocurrency websites to fool victims into depositing their assets or cash. 

Learn how to stay safe in the world of Web3: 15 Most Common Crypto Scams To Look Out For

The websites allegedly promised victims high returns, but after a time, users found they could not withdraw their funds. Then, Mitsubishi Bank became suspicious when it couldn’t obtain information about the shell companies from Deltec.

Law enforcement identified at least 74 shell companies involved in wire fraud. And traced the funds to custodial accounts before their transfer to accounts in the Bahamas. Law enforcement apparently couldn’t identify the registered agents, business locations, or purposes of two in particular: Axis Digital Limited and GTAL.

In the United States, know-your-customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) laws require banks to verify customer identities. Ideally, this allows financial institutions, and law enforcement, to assess money laundering risks and report suspicious transactions.

This is far from the first instance where cryptocurrency and digital assets have played a role in crime. Crypto allows for pseudonymous and decentralized transactions, making it harder to trace and identify the parties involved in illegal activity.

Most people who use crypto are honest and law-abiding. However, for criminals, this set of traits can be hard to resist.

The O.C. Actor Launches Crypto Critic Book

Such scams give ammunition to those who don’t like cryptocurrency. In the latest instance, Ben McKenzie, the actor who played Ryan Atwood in the teen-drama The O.C., has breathed second life into his career. Only, this time he has focused less on casting rooms and more on critiquing cryptocurrency.

McKenzie has now co-written a book with author Jacob Silverman, with whom he has collaborated on multiple articles critical of digital assets. But the 44-year-old actor has been a persistent campaigner against the technology since at least 2021.

In his latest promotional rounds, the actor appeared on CNBC’s Squawkbox on Tuesday to elaborate on his criticisms.

“My biggest concern is regular people who have lost a lot of money,” he said. “Cryptocurrency, the market, closely resembles a Ponzi scheme… 99% of people lose, and the 1% benefit.”

He went on:

“In crypto, it would be the exchange owners, the VC firms. It would be the people who issue the coins.”

Easy Money: Cryptocurrency, Casino Capitalism, and the Golden Age of Fraud is out today.

Top crypto platforms in the US | February 2024

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Josh Adams
Josh is a reporter at BeInCrypto. He first worked as a journalist over a decade ago, initially covering music before moving into politics and current affairs. Josh first owned Bitcoin in 2014 and has followed the space ever since. He is particularly interested in Web3 adoption, policy and regulation, CBDCs, privacy, and the future of the metaverse.
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