Crypto Mixing Service Founder Laundered $400 Million in Dark Web Drug Trade


Roman Sterlingov, the mastermind behind Bitcoin Fog, a notorious crypto mixing service, has been found guilty by a federal jury. The verdict, a product of a month-long trial, exposes a decade-long operation that allegedly facilitated the laundering of hundreds of millions of dollars in illicit funds. This conviction marks a significant victory for US authorities in their ongoing battle to rein in the misuse of cryptocurrency for criminal activities.

Crypto: A Haven For Dirty Money?

For years, digital assets like Bitcoin have attracted scrutiny for their potential to be exploited by criminals. Bitcoin transactions, while recorded on a public ledger, can be difficult to trace due to the anonymity associated with user accounts.

This anonymity becomes especially concerning with services like Bitcoin Fog, which act as mixers for cryptocurrency transactions. Bitcoin Fog functioned by pooling funds from various users before sending them out in smaller, fragmented transactions, effectively obscuring the origin and destination of the money.

Prosecutors presented a compelling case, meticulously tracing a trail of crypto transactions that flowed through Bitcoin Fog and ultimately originated from dark web marketplaces notorious for drug trafficking. The total value of laundered funds was estimated to be over $400 million, with a significant portion – $78 million – directly linked to these illegal platforms.


The case also sheds light on the growing trend of sanctioned entities utilizing crypto mixers to circumvent financial restrictions. A recent report by Chainalysis, a blockchain data platform, revealed that over 60% of illicit crypto transactions in 2023 were linked to sanctioned individuals or organizations. This highlights the increasingly sophisticated methods employed by criminals to exploit the anonymity of crypto transactions.

Source: Chainalysis

A House Of Cards Crumbles: Sterlingov’s Defense Falters

Throughout the trial, Sterlingov maintained his innocence. He vehemently denied any involvement in the operation of Bitcoin Fog, claiming he was merely a user of the service. The prosecution, however, presented evidence that contradicted his claims.

Investigators were able to trace the registration of the Bitcoin Fog domain name back to Sterlingov, a complex procedure allegedly undertaken over a decade ago. Additionally, prosecutors demonstrated that Sterlingov himself had conducted small transactions through the service, potentially as a test run before its official launch in 2011.

Total crypto market cap at $2.6 trillion on the daily chart:

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While Sterlingov admitted to using Bitcoin Fog, he denied receiving any fees from the service, a claim that directly challenged the prosecution’s narrative. Despite his defense, the jury ultimately found Sterlingov guilty on all four counts of money laundering, paving the way for a potential sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

Featured image from Unsplash, chart from TradingView

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