Darknet Bitcoin Mixer Laundered 300 Million

On August 18, an Ohio resident pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy charges arising from the operation of a Darknet bitcoin mixing service between 2014 and 2017, as the case’s judge recognized bitcoin to be a store of value and a medium of exchange. The court is yet to determine Larry Dean Harmon’s sentence, but he faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a hefty fine. Harmon also agreed to forfeit 4,400 BTC, currently valued at over $200 million.

On previous hearings, Harmon tried to make the case that since bitcoin is not money per D.C. law, he couldn’t be found guilty of the money laundering charges. However, Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell rejected his reasoning, saying that bitcoin does perform the function of money.

“Money,” Howell wrote, “commonly means a medium of exchange, method of payment, or store of value. Bitcoin is these things.”

The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) released a statement detailing Harmon’s confession that he operated Helix, the bitcoin tumbler, for three years. Custodial bitcoin tumblers work by mixing coins (UTXOs) from different sources. The service accepts your funds with the promise that it will return them after some time. The exact amount of funds is returned but with different coins to try and obfuscate the origin and owner of each coin in exchange for a fee. Harmon advertised Helix to customers on the Darknet to conceal transactions from law enforcement, the statement said.