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COURT DOC: USA v. Roman Sterlingov

April 26, 2021

DoJ indicted Roman Sterlingov, a citizen of Russia and Sweden, on charges of Laundering of Monetary Instruments, Operating an Unlicensed Money Transmitting Business, and Money Transmission Without a License in connection with his alleged operation of an illicit Bitcoin money transmitting and money laundering service called BITCOIN FOG.

BITCOIN FOG functions as a Bitcoin ‘tumbler’ or ‘mixer’ service. It allows users to send bitcoins to designated recipients in a manner designed to conceal and obfuscate the source of the bitcoins.

BITCOIN FOG was launched on or about October 27, 2011, and was still operational as of April 26, 2021.

More than 1.2 million BTC (valued at approximately $335,809,383 at the time of the transactions) has been sent through the site from in or about October 2011 through the present. Historically, the largest senders of BTC through BITCOIN FOG have been darknet markets, such as Agora, Silk Road 2.0, Silk Road, Evolution, and AlphaBay, that primarily trafficked in illegal narcotics and other illegal goods.

BITCOIN FOG was publicly advertised on Internet forums and well-known web pages promoting darknet markets as a tool for anonymizing bitcoin transactions.

The @BitcoinFog account also tweeted links to stories discussing why users should tumble bitcoins to thwart law enforcement. For example, on or about September 13, 2017, the @BitcoinFog account tweeted a link to a story about the IRS using blockchain analysis software to track bitcoin. On or about June 11, 2019, @BitcoinFog tweeted a link to a Europol press release announcing the law enforcement takedown of Bestmixer.io, another Bitcoin mixer/tumbler, commenting: ‘this is why you need to use ONLY a Tor-based mixing service (Such a surprise).’

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