Someone Is Trolling Celebs by Sending ETH From Tornado Cash

An anonymous crypto user transferred small amounts of ether from a sanctioned address to stars and prominent crypto figures on Tuesday.

AccessTimeIconAug 9, 2022 at 3:16 p.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 5:09 p.m. UTC

An anonymous user sent a slew of Tornado Cash transactions to high-profile Ethereum addresses on Tuesday in what appears to be a troll implicating them in a potential regulatory mess.

Affected wallets include those controlled by Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong, TV host Jimmy Fallon, clothing brand Puma and a wallet created for donations to Ukraine, according to Etherscan. Prominent crypto figures such as artist Beeple and more mainstream celebrities such as comedian Dave Chappelle received ether (ETH).

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) – a watchdog agency of the U.S. government – sanctioned Tornado Cash on Monday, prohibiting U.S. persons and entities from interacting or transacting with the privacy tool.

A U.S. person includes anyone on U.S. soil as well as any American citizen abroad. Tornado Cash is a mixer, a protocol designed to pool funds in an effort to obfuscate the origin of any given transaction. U.S. officials alleged that a significant number of funds flowing through the mixer were tied to criminal activities, such as North Korea’s proceeds from hacking various crypto exchanges and services.

The idea to send 0.1 ETH to celebrity wallets appears to have originated on Twitter in a Monday post by user Depression2019, who has since retweeted screengrabs from the on-chain transactions.

The gag effectively points out the absurdity of such sanctions for users receiving funds from blacklisted addresses that they have no power to decline. The open nature of crypto is designed to cut out intermediaries, unlike the traditional financial sector that would use banks and other financial institutions to act as gatekeepers against such transactions.

Because Tornado Cash is a sanctioned entity, U.S. persons would likely be under a legal obligation to block incoming transactions from its wallets. OFAC rules mandate that U.S. persons freeze any transactions or funds sent from Tornado Cash.

It isn’t possible to block an incoming transfer on-chain, so exchanges and other parties would most likely have to block the addresses.

This may not be easy for celebrities and businesses with public wallets that aren’t operated by an exchange or similar type of business.


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Eli Tan

Eli was a news reporter for CoinDesk. He holds ETH, SOL and AVAX.

Oliver Knight

Oliver Knight is a CoinDesk reporter based between London and Lisbon. He does not own any crypto.

Nikhilesh De

Nikhilesh De is CoinDesk's managing editor for global policy and regulation. He owns marginal amounts of bitcoin and ether.