US Justice Department to double its crypto team, target ransomware crimes

The United States Department of Justice (DoJ) has said it will double the number of staff on its crypto crime team established in 2021. The unit will add to its number of acting prosecutors and get a new leader.

On July 20, the DoJ published the remarks made by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole Argentieri at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. In her speech, Argentieri announced the merger of two DoJ teams: the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) and the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET).

After joining the CCIPS, NCET will continue its activities in investigating and prosecuting criminal offenses involving the abuse of cryptocurrency. Calling the NCET “an enormously successful startup,” Argentieri emphasized that the merger with a larger structure would provide it with new additional resources.

The number of criminal division attorneys available to work on criminal cryptocurrency matters will “more than double,” as any CCIPS attorney could potentially be assigned to work an NCET case. The NCET will also gather access to computer crime and intellectual property work.

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The agency will also get a new acting director. Argentieri thanked the inaugural Director of NCET, Eun Young Choi, for her work and named Claudia Quiroz as the new head of the team. Quiroz, a former assistant attorney from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, has been a deputy director of NCET since its inception.

An immediate task for the new “super-charged” unit will be to combat ransomware crimes. The NCET will focus on tracking criminals through their crypto payments, freezing or seizing them “before they go to Russia and other ransomware hotspots.”

The NCET was launched in 2021 as a part of the DoJ’s Cryptocurrency Enforcement Framework. In May 2023, ex-Director Choi stated that the department focused on thefts and hacks involving decentralized finance and “particularly chain bridges.”

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