Federal authorities arrested Larry Dean Harmon of Bath, Ohio for the part he played in the operation of Helix. Helix was a bitcoin mixing service which worked closely with the Darknet criminal market AlphaBay, which was taken down by federal authorities in 2017. Harmon also operated Grams, a Darknet search engine. Helix allowed AlphaBay users to send and receive funds for illegal goods in a way that helped to conceal the transactions, making it harder for law enforcement investigators to trace the money used for purchases of illegal items. According to the federal indictment, Harmon exchanged more than 350,000 bitcoin, valued at over $300 million USD at the time of the transactions, from 2014-2017. Harmon is currently being charged with money laundering, conspiracy, operating an unlicensed money transmitting business, and conducting money transmission without a license.
It is likely that this will not be the only arrest resulting from the take down of AlphaBay and Helix. As investigators dig into the devices used by Harmon, more information will likely be learned about how funds were mixed. This should help investigators to discover who was sending and receiving funds, potentially leading to more arrests. Bitcoin transactions are all recorded on the blockchain–a publicly available, distributed ledger that makes it possible for anyone to view and verify the date, time and amounts of transactions between any bitcoin addresses. The blockchain does not contain the names or other identifiers of the people who made the transactions, but analysis of the patterns of transactions can lead to identifying individuals. The Helix mixing service would change coins around in such a way that the same coins were not being received by the seller as were sent by the buyer, making it much harder to monitor transactions. More information on this incident can be found at https://www.theverge.com/2020/2/13/21136749/doj-ohio-helix-bitcoin-darknet-cryptocurrency-laundering-crime