IRS Seized $3.5B in Cryptocurrency During Fiscal 2021

The seizures by the U.S. tax agency included $1 billion in crypto related to the darknet market Silk Road.

Nov 18, 2021 at 8:15 p.m. UTC
Updated Nov 18, 2021 at 8:21 p.m. UTC

Michael Bellusci is CoinDesk's crypto payments reporter.

The Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Criminal Investigation Unit (CI) unit seized $3.5 billion in cryptocurrency during fiscal 2021, which accounted for 93% of its criminal investigation seizures, according to the agency’s annual criminal investigation report published Thursday.

  • The seizures included $1 billion in crypto tied to the darknet market Silk Road. That action is the largest crypto seizure ever by the U.S. government.
  • In an introductory note, CI Chief Jim Lee also highlighted the “first-ever sentencing of a bitcoin case with a tax component.” In November 2020, a former Microsoft software engineer received a nine-year sentence for a scheme using bitcoin and digital gift cards to defraud the company of $10 million.
  • The IRS said it could seize billions of dollars more linked to tax fraud and other crimes next year, according to a Bloomberg article.
  • To further its efforts at combatting the illegal use of cryptocurrency, the CI plans to launch a collaboration and data center in Northern Virginia next year.
  • “The speed at which money moves is already instantaneous and the convenience that comes with that opens the door for criminals to exploit the latest technological advancements,” Lee wrote. He added: “CI has committed to staying ahead of these developments, and we have made significant investments in training our employees in the latest tactics and techniques to be successful in a digital financial world.”

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Michael Bellusci is CoinDesk's crypto payments reporter.

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Michael Bellusci is CoinDesk's crypto payments reporter.

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