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Agent Smith says the Secret Service has seized $102 million worth of crypto in 254 cases since 2015

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A senior United States Secret Service (USSS) official says the agency can track the flow of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in ways similar to email addresses and has seized more than $102 million in crypto in 254 cases since 2015 .

USSS Deputy Investigator David Smith told CNBC that the transparent and immutable aspect of blockchain ledgers means investigators can track transactions more easily than fiat in some cases.

“One of the guiding principles of blockchain is that it is a public ledger that is shared and accessible to anyone with a little computing power, including law enforcement,” Smith said.

“So the Secret Service hasn’t done anything that wasn’t the original intent of the blockchain. We only use the same tracking and tracing mechanisms that were intended.”

Agent Smith said that since 2015, the Secret Service has seized more than $100 million in cryptocurrency in international operations against cybercrooks, with agents and analysts conducting investigations from the Global Investigative Operations Center (GIOC) at the Secret Service’s headquarters in Washington DC

Crypto is confiscated in a variety of scenarios. Around $1.7 million in bitcoin was seized in a March case in which an Estonian was sentenced to 66 months in prison for his involvement in at least 13 international ransomware attacks. Another operation involved a failed international money laundering operation in Romania, and another involved a Russian-speaking cybercriminal ring, again involved in ransomware.

Smith compared tracking crypto to tracking an email address:

“When you follow a digital currency wallet, it is no different than an email address, which has some correlating identifiers. Once a person and another person makes a transaction and it gets on the blockchain, we have the ability to follow that email address or wallet address, if you will, and track them through the blockchain.”

Smith said criminals often try to cover their tracks from law enforcement by making as many wire transfers as possible, which he likened to a “mirror house.” Stolen bitcoin and other digital currencies are often converted into stablecoins to avoid volatility.

“Because, you know, criminals are people too. They want to avoid some of that market volatility associated with some of the big coins,” he said.

The US Secret Service is one of the oldest law enforcement agencies in the country, originally formed to protect the country’s financial infrastructure. Founded in 1865 as a branch of the US Treasury Department, its sole purpose at the time was to combat counterfeiting of US currency.

Today, the agency falls under the Department of Homeland Security and often conducts joint investigations with other federal agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and international agencies to achieve its goals.

On Tuesday, CISA, the FBI and the US Treasury issued an alert about North Korea-sponsored cyber threats targeting blockchain companies in response to a $650 million Ronin Bridge hack.

Related: What the Launch of the FBI’s Crypto Task Force Means for the Digital Assets Space

In February, the USSS launched a Cryptocurrency Awareness Center, which aims to raise public awareness about the security of digital assets and showcase the agency’s work in combating illegal use of digital assets.

“Intelligence: Protecting Next-Generation Currency.” Source: US Secret Service YouTube

On the website, the agency said digital assets are increasingly being used to facilitate a growing number of crimes, including various fraud schemes and the use of ransomware. However, the agency also noted that the use of cryptocurrencies is not inherently criminal.