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US Authorities Seize $54 Million in Crypto From New Jersey Narcotics Ring


New Jersey’s U.S. Attorney’s Office has filed a civil forfeiture action against Christopher Castelluzzo and two other members of an unnamed drug trafficking group based in New Jersey.

According to the filing, the other two members of the group are Luke Atwell – a friend and business partner of Castelluzzo’s who is currently serving a similar sentence – and Brian Krewson, another friend of the two who reportedly manages their estate for the time being.

Attempts to Move Crypto For Tax Avoidance

The stash was allegedly discovered after Castelluzzo – who is currently serving two concurrent 20-year sentences – attempted to communicate with members of his outfit while in prison in order to move the funds to another country in a bid to avoid taxation.

According to FBI Agent James Dennehy, the seizure is testimony of his agency’s capabilities to uncover illicit funds no matter where they may be.

“Our forfeiture action of $54 million should serve as a lesson to those who mistakenly believe we can’t trace their illicit behavior or their ill-gotten proceeds. We will successfully hold all criminals responsible in the open, with real-world consequences.”

Operating Since The Early Days

Although the total haul of $54 million is significant, the number does not reflect the true amount of illegal substances that the pair actually sold.

According to the forfeiture action, the two defendants had been selling drugs for crypto on various dark web markets ever since 2013.

Although 0.49 BTC were still held by Castelluzzo, the vast majority of the haul was reinvested into other cryptocurrencies – which have since massively grown in value.

For instance, the lion’s share of the confiscated funds is in Ether – with 30,000 ETH seized. These tokens were purchased at Ethereum’s original ICO.

Further investments were also made into Chainlink, Polkadot, Algorand, and eight more cryptocurrencies (excluding BTC and ETH).

U.S. Attorney Phillip R. Sellinger stated that the U.S. justice system will continue to track down the proceeds of illegal activity in whatever form they may be.

“The civil action we are taking today seeks to recover millions of dollars of cryptocurrency, which the defendant allegedly obtained from drug sales. Whether it’s as simple as bags of cash or as sophisticated as cryptocurrency, we will take the steps necessary to seize financial gains defendants obtain from criminal activity.”

Sellinger’s statement is remarkably similar to the one made by an attorney after SBF’s guilty verdict, suggesting a possible guideline regarding statements on crypto – more specifically, neither attorney blamed crypto as the catalyst for criminal activity. Instead, the attorneys indicated that the proceeds of criminal behavior are still illicit, regardless of whether they are stored in rolls of cash or on USB sticks.

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