FBI Used Bitcoin Trail to Catch Russian Rapper Accused of Money Laundering

Rapper Maksim Boiko had claimed bundles of money he posed with in photos came from rental revenue and investments in bitcoin.

AccessTimeIconApr 3, 2020 at 12:34 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 8:25 a.m. UTC

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) used bitcoin wallet activity and an old exchange account as key evidence to arrest a Russian rapper on charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

In an affidavit unsealed earlier this week, FBI special agent Samantha Shelnick said she and her team had used the digital paper trail to uncover a major money-laundering operation, run by a shadowy criminal organization known as QQAAZZ. The rapper, Maksim Boiko, is believed to be closely connected to the leaders of the gang.

QQAAZZ received and laundered money for cybercriminals by changing fiat currency into crypto. The group had signed up for multiple exchanges, including Coinbase and Bitstamp, with the username "Atrofi95." As these exchanges have KYC (know your customer) checks, FBI officials linked the accounts back to an email account controlled by an Aleksejs Trofimovics who, as the affidavit claims, regularly communicated with phone numbers associated with Boiko.

Boiko's phones, used to communicate with Trofimovics, included multiple screenshots of bitcoin wallet addresses and transactions of up to $35,000. On further investigation, many of these pictures were found in conversations between Boiko and other suspected QQAAZZ members.

Suspicions were first raised for officials after Boiko and his wife tried to enter the U.S. with getting on for $20,000 in cash in January of this year. There were also multiple pictures on his phone, stretching back to 2015, showing him posing with large bundles of money. At the time, Boiko said the money came from revenue collected from rental properties in Russia, as well as investments he had made in bitcoin.

Per the FBI complaint, filed in the Western District of Pennsylvania, Shelnick said the agency also found multiple conversations between suspected cybercriminals and someone by the name of "gangass."

They linked this pseudonym to Boiko via an account on BTC-e, a crypto exchange shut down in 2017 on suspicion that it was used to facilitate money laundering. Boiko had registered with an email containing his rap name, "Plinofficial," and the moniker "gangass" as the username.

Boiko, who now stands accused of conspiracy to commit money laundering, has continued to release music under the label Smells Weed Music. He was still active on Twitter earlier this week. On Monday he said: "In Miami, zombie land is real. Everything is closed altogether."

If found guilty, he faces up to 10 years imprisonment.

See the full affidavit below:

DISCLOSURE

Please note that our privacy policy, terms of use, cookies, and do not sell my personal information has been updated.

The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups. As part of their compensation, certain CoinDesk employees, including editorial employees, may receive exposure to DCG equity in the form of stock appreciation rights, which vest over a multi-year period. CoinDesk journalists are not allowed to purchase stock outright in DCG.

Trending

1
CoinDesk - Unknown
NFT Platforms Should Be Caught by EU Money-Laundering Overhaul, Lawmakers Say

Unhosted wallets and decentralized finance were left largely unscathed by two landmark crypto laws agreed to last week, but left-wing lawmakers may seek another go as they discuss dirty-money rules.

CoinDesk - Unknown
2
CoinDesk - Unknown
Bitcoin se recupera y supera los $19K; Nomura advierte de una recesión en EE. UU. y Reino Unido

Nomura escribió acerca de una recesión en la eurozona, el Reino Unido y Asia Pacífico, lo que podría influir en los precios de las criptomonedas.

CoinDesk - Unknown
3
CoinDesk - Unknown
Argentinos se refugian en stablecoins durante el fin de semana tras dimisión del ministro de Economía

Los principales exchanges del país informaron que los usuarios compraron hasta tres veces más criptomonedas estables que durante un fin de semana normal, en medio una crisis económica en ciernes.

CoinDesk - Unknown
4
CoinDesk - Unknown
Polkadot Builder Parity Technologies Adds 3 Execs to Leadership Team

The new executives joining Parity are Eran Barak (COO), Peter Ruchatz (CMO) and Fahmi Syed (CFO)

CoinDesk - Unknown