“Project Laktha” has been alleged that the group had funneled money through significant crypto exchanges. Elliptic, a blockchain analytics firm, has been following their trails.
A Russian national has been issued an arrest warrant charging to conspire to interfere in US elections and steal identities of US citizens using them to open fraudulent accounts at cryptocurrency exchanges. He, together with his accomplices, collected almost $1 million.
Filed in Eastern District of Virginia court recently, the complaint alleges that Artem Lifshits, age 27, from St. Petersburg, Russia, is the manager of “Project Lakhta,” it is an operation made for interfering with the US election and engineering doubt in the nation’s political system.
“According to the complaint, the subject engaged in a wire fraud conspiracy to further Russian foreign influence efforts and to enrich himself and others,” alleged Alan E. Kohler, Jr. FBI Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division, in a testimonial publicized by the US Department of Justice yesterday.
Lifshits and other Russian nationals Anton Andreyev, Darya Aslanov, and Andrii Derkach, a member of Ukraine’s parliament and an assumed Russian spy, are given sanctions.
Some of it in cryptocurrency was used to “promote Project Lakhta’s influence operations and personal enrichment,” conferring to the DOJ’s press release. They used cryptocurrency because of its privacy features, and it is far less regulated than everyday finance. They also stole US citizens’ identities to have access to major crypto exchanges, which have identity verification nowadays.
Elliptic has traced the cryptocurrency that was used to bankroll the operation. They analyzed the addresses listed on the US Treasury’s website; it was found that nearly $1 million passed through January 2017 and May 2017.
Dr. Tom Robinson, Elliptic’s co-founder and chief scientist, noted that the transactions have ended “soon after the midterm elections of November 2018,” in a blog post.
The investigators have found that, of the 23 crypto addresses listed by OFAC, $624,118 (64%) of the funds were held in Bitcoin; $260,354 (26.8%) in Ether; $80,281 (8.3%) in the privacy coin, Zcash; and $2,464 (0.3%) in Bitcoin SV.
It was found that the money has rebounded around several diverse exchanges, among them Gemini, Bitfinex, Poloniex, and Binance.
It was said that the conspirators could be doing something that is called “chain-hopping,” where criminals transfer funds through lots of exchanges. Because of this, funds are difficult to trace, and more importantly, it is a nightmare for the authorities to demand exchanges to freeze funds.
Elliptic stated that “In fact, one or more accounts at a single, well-known exchange received over 96% of the USD 1 million in crypto involved,” but that it would “not disclose the exchanges involved due to confidentiality reasons.”