An Ohio man plead guilty to money laundering; the individual operated a Darknet cryptocurrency laundering service called Helix. Larry Dean Harmon operated Helix from 2014-2017 and is believed to have laundered over $300 million in bitcoin. Helix functioned as a bitcoin mixer, allowing customers to pay a fee to anonymously send bitcoin to vendors and other individuals. Harmon admitted that Helix partnered with several Darknet markets to provide bitcoin money laundering services for market customers. Harmon turned over more than $200 million in bitcoin as part of a plea deal and faces up to 20 years in prison. The IRS-CI Cyber Crimes Unit and the FBI led the investigation.
A crypto-mixing service, or a cryptocurrency tumbler, tries to hide the original source of potentially identifiable cryptocurrency by combining it up with other funds in a single pool. The cryptocurrency is lumped together with funds from other sources and then redistributed at random to the destination address. This practice makes it incredibly difficult to track cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, but law enforcement investigations that result in the seizure the records of cryptocurrency mixers can provide information that could potentially unmask the criminal operators responsible for transactions. Even though it is difficult to investigate cyber-crimes, it is still worthwhile to report criminal activity to federal law enforcement because this information is necessary to start investigations that can eventually lead to enforcement wins such as this case.