U.S. arrests alleged 'Bitcoin Fog' money launderer


FILE PHOTO: A Bitcoin logo is displayed at the Bitcoin Center New York City in New York's financial district July 28, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

BOSTON (Reuters) - U.S. officials on Tuesday arrested Roman Sterlingov, the alleged principal operator of cryptocurrency money laundering website Bitcoin Fog, according to a federal court filing.

Sterlingov, a citizen of Russia and Sweden, was detained in Los Angeles on money-laundering related charges.

Bitcoin Fog, launched in 2011, is one of the original Bitcoin "tumbler" or "mixer" services designed to help users anonymize cryptocurrencies payments, especially on so-called darknet online markets that trafficked in drugs and other illegal products, according to a legal statement accompanying the criminal complaint by Internal Revenue Service special agent Devon Beckett.

"Analysis of bitcoin transactions, financial records, Internet service provider records, email records and additional investigative information, identifies Roman Sterlingov as the principal operator of Bitcoin Fog," Beckett wrote.

More than 1.2 million Bitcoin (BTC) -- worth approximately $336 million at the time of the transactions -- were sent through Bitcoin Fog, according to the Beckett statement.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, which is handling the case, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Requests sent to email addresses tied to Sterlingov were not immediately returned.

(Reporting by Lawrence Delevingne; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

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