A top official from the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) says the agency can track the flow of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in a similar manner to email addresses, and it has seized more than $102 million in crypto across 254 cases since 2015.

USSS assistant director of investigations David Smith told CNBC that the transparent and immutable aspect of blockchain ledgers means investigators can trace transactions easier than fiat in some cases.

“One of the guiding principles of the blockchain is that it is a public ledger that’s shared and everyone with a little bit of computing power has access to it, including law enforcement,” said Smith.

“So the secret service hasn’t been doing anything that wasn’t the original intent of the blockchain. We’re just using the same tracking and tracing mechanisms that were intended.”

Agent Smith said more than $100 million in cryptocurrency has been seized by the Secret Service in international operations targeting cyber-fraudsters since 2015, with agents and analysts conducting investigations out of the Global Investigative Operations Center (GIOC) at the Secret Service headquarters in Washington D.C.

Crypto is seized in a variety of scenarios. Around $1.7 million in Bitcoin was seized in a case from March, in which an Estonian man was sentenced to 66 months in prison for his role in at least 13 international ransomware attacks. Another operation saw the fall of an international money laundering operation in Romania, and another involved a Russian-speaking cybercriminal ring again involved in ransomware.


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