Crypto Mixers Haven't 'Slowed' DOJ Investigations, Director Says

Crypto mixers are a challenge for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) but they haven't "necessarily slowed us down," the chief crypto prosecutor at the law enforcement agency said Tuesday.

Eun Young Choi, the director of the DOJ's national crypto enforcement team, told the audience at DC Fintech Week that enforcing the laws against crimes with a crypto component is "no different than a lot of other activities."

Investigators have to trace funds and either wait for them to move to track them back to perpetrators or move quickly to identify a lead, she said.

While mixers and other automated tools cause challenges for the DOJ, they are not slowing investigators down, Choi added, responding to a question by moderator and conference organizer Chris Brummer.

The DOJ's strategy around crypto in particular is focused on how tools might make facilitating crimes easier.

"We're really looking at the multiplier effect, so mixers, tumblers and money laundering are important because they have a multiplier effect, they facilitate all sorts of criminal activities, different sorts," she said. "By making sure that we are addressing ... that activity, [we will] hopefully lessen the impact of crypto [crimes]."

Another part of the DOJ's strategy involves its new Digital Asset Coordinator Network, which the entity announced in a recent report published as part of the White House's executive order on crypto.

"That's important for us just because there's so much work to be done. We need to make sure we have available resourcing and subject matter experts on the ground and in the field in order to help their respective offices," she said. "The team is very focused on just building [expertise]."

Saying crypto crimes are "a global problem," Choi also said the U.S. DOJ is working with foreign law enforcement entities to support their efforts as well.

Choi, who called herself "a huge nerd," also detailed her entry into the crypto beat, starting with her role as a prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York investigating cybercrimes, to entering crypto specifically around 2013.

Prosecutors at the agency now are building up their expertise in this area, she said.

"We've had multiple rounds of successful, I think very successful public announcements relating to seizures of different cryptos, which I think most people would not necessarily have known we were able to do," she said.