Digital currency addresses linked to online wallets have been added to the Specially Designated Persons List in response to charges brought by the U.S. Justice Department against an Iranian hacking cell. This joint action between the Justice Department and the U.S. Treasury Department marks the first time digital currency identifiers have been added to flag targets on the Sanctions List.
Under Secretary Sigal P. Mandelker reinforced the importance of these sanctions in her keynote address at the recent ABA Financial Crimes Conference stating, "Just as we are focused on promoting innovation by the private sector, we are also keenly aware that emerging technologies, such as virtual or digital currencies, can be used for nefarious purposes...As Iranian and other bad actors attempt to misuse digital currency to facilitate illicit activity, financial institutions, including exchangers and other providers of digital currency services, must guard against the risks of assisting these malicious actors."
The digital currency addresses, which include the unique alphanumeric identifier and the corresponding digital currency, are associated with over 7,000 transactions processed by two individuals that allegedly laundered millions of dollars’ worth of bitcoin gained from the SamSam ransomware scheme. Through the scheme, the cell extorted over $6 million dollars from 200+ victims dating back to December 2015. Among the victims were the Atlanta city government, Colorado Department of Transportation and educational institutions, including the Mississippi Valley State University, bringing the economic damage to over $30 million.