In a recent Ohio criminal case, 31-year-old Gary Harmon has been sentenced to four years and three months in prison for stealing over 712 bitcoins (BTC) that were subject to forfeiture. In January, Harmon pleaded guilty to charges related to wire fraud and obstruction of justice.
The US Department of Justice revealed that Gary Harmon acquired the bitcoins worth $4.8 million following the arrest of his brother, Larry Harmon, who was involved in running Helix, a darknet-based crypto mixer. Helix had allegedly laundered over 350,000 bitcoins, amounting to roughly $300 million at the time of the transactions. Larry’s arrest led to a conviction for money laundering and unlawful money transmission-related crimes. Moreover, FinCEN imposed a $60 million fine upon him, marking the first financial penalty against a crypto mixer.
As the authorities proceeded with Larry’s criminal case, they seized assets, including a crypto storage device containing bitcoins from Helix’s operations. However, due to the device’s heightened security features, the law enforcement officers were unable to access the stored crypto. Gary Harmon took advantage of this situation by using his brother’s credentials to recreate the stored crypto wallets and stealthily transfer more than 712 bitcoins to his own wallet.
Gary’s attempt to launder the funds involved utilizing two online crypto mixers before spending the proceeds on various purchases and expenses.
On the one hand, this case showcases the darker side of cryptocurrencies, where they can be easily exploited for illicit activities, leading to scepticism regarding their safety and legitimacy. Critics argue that the difficulty in tracing transactions allows offenders to use cryptos for illegal purposes, thus questioning the medium’s ethical soundness.
On the other hand, as seen above, the law enforcement agencies were successful in apprehending the accused and were able to recover a significant portion of the stolen assets. As part of Gary’s prosecution, he agreed to forfeit more than 647.41 BTC, 2.14 Ethereum (ETH), and 17,404,400.64 Dogecoin (DOGE), currently valued at around $21 million.
This case sparks debate over cryptocurrency’s potential for being misused and the need for enhanced security measures. However, the successful conviction also highlights the capabilities of law enforcement agencies to combat these activities, which could ultimately bolster community trust and growth in the crypto market.