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  • Samourai Wallet executives arrested on money laundering charges

    Keonne Rodriguez, CEO, and William Lonergan Hill, CTO of the cryptocurrency mixing service Samourai Wallet, were arrested and charged with money laundering and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. This announcement was made by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

    According to the indictment, Rodriguez and Hill allegedly operated Samourai Wallet, which executed more than $2 billion in unlawful transactions and laundered over $100 million in criminal proceeds. This service provided a platform for anonymizing the financial transactions of its users, attracting funds from illegal dark web markets like Silk Road and Hydra Market, among other illicit sources.

    The arrests occurred under the coordination of multiple law enforcement agencies, including the IRS Criminal Investigation's New York Field Office and the FBI’s New York Field Office. Rodriguez was taken into custody in the Western District of Pennsylvania, while Hill was arrested in Portugal, with the U.S. seeking his extradition.

    The legal scrutiny of Samourai Wallet began to intensify as its operations allegedly included features designed specifically to obscure the origin of digital currencies. The service offered a "mixing" feature known as Whirlpool and a transaction obfuscation feature called Ricochet, which have processed substantial volumes of Bitcoin since their inception.

    U.S. Attorney Damian Williams stated, "As alleged, the defendants knowingly facilitated the laundering of vast sums of money derived from criminal activities, providing a digital refuge for criminals to engage in large-scale money laundering".

    The case is a focal point in the broader U.S. strategy to regulate and oversee cryptocurrency operations, which are increasingly under scrutiny for their potential to bypass conventional financial regulations and controls.

    Both Rodriguez and Hill face serious charges, with potential maximum sentences amounting to 25 years if convicted. The indictment also emphasizes the operation of a centralized server by Samourai that allegedly played a critical role in facilitating these transactions, despite the platform’s claim of providing a privacy-focused service that does not require user identification.

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