A CEO from Ohio has pleaded guilty to being the operator of a darknet-based Bitcoin ‘mixer’ service that laundered more than $300m

Akron resident and CEO of Bitcoin media site Coin Ninja Larry Dean Harmon was at the helm of underground cryptocurrency laundering service Helix for three years, from 2014 to 2017. 

During that time, the 38-year-old creator of crypto-wallet provider DropBit conspired with darknet vendors to launder over 350,000 Bitcoin generated through drug trafficking and other illegal activities.

Helix partnered with several darknet markets, including AlphaBay, Evolution, and Cloud 9, to provide its customers with a way to send Bitcoin to designated recipients while concealing the source or owner of the cryptocurrency.

In exchange for a 2.5% fee, Helix would ‘mix’ or ‘tumble’ customers’ Bitcoin so that it was untraceable. Harmon advertised Helix on the darknet as a way for customers to conceal their transactions from law enforcement.

Court documents showed that Helix was linked to and associated with the leading search engine on the darknet, “Grams,” which was also run by Harmon. 

Harmon was placed in custody in February 2020, shortly after a warrant was put out for his arrest. On August 18, he pleaded guilty to his part in the Helix money-laundering conspiracy. 

As part of his plea, Harmon agreed to the forfeiture of more than 4,400 Bitcoin, currently valued at more than $200m, and other seized properties that were involved in the criminal conspiracy.

A date has not been set for Harmon’s sentencing. The crypto criminal could be handed a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and be ordered to pay a fine of up to $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction.

Harmon could further be sentenced to a term of supervised release of not more than three years, and mandatory restitution.

“Darknet markets and the dealers who sell opioids and other illegal drugs on them are a growing scourge,” said Acting US Attorney Channing Phillips for the District of Columbia. 

“They may try to hide their identities and launder millions in sales behind technologies like Helix. But the department and its law enforcement partners will shine a light on their activities, dismantle the infrastructure such criminal marketplaces depend on, and prosecute and convict those responsible.”

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