Bitcoin mixer owner pleads guilty to laundering over $300 million
Larry Dean Harmon, the owner of a dark web cryptocurrency laundering service known as Helix, pleaded guilty today of laundering over $300 million worth of bitcoins between 2014 and 2017.
“Harmon admitted that Helix partnered with several Darknet markets, including AlphaBay, Evolution, Cloud 9 and others, to provide bitcoin money laundering services for market customers,” the Department of Justice said in a press release.
“In total, Helix moved over 350,000 bitcoin – valued at over $300 million at the time of the transactions – on behalf of customers, with the largest volume coming from Darknet markets.”
According to a three-count indictment unsealed in February 2020, Harmon was also charged with operating an unlicensed money transmitting business and conducting money transmission without a license.
Also operated the Grams dark web search engine
Starting with April 2014, Harmon owned and operated the dark web search engine Grams, according to court documents.
Beginning with July 1024, he started running Helix, a Bitcoin mixer or tumbler which allowed anyone to “launder” their bitcoins by concealing the true owner.
In November 2016, Harmon partnered with AlphaBay, the largest dark web marketplace between December 2014 and July 2017, which “recommended to its customers that they use a bitcoin tumbler service to ‘erase any trace of [their] coins.”
Harmon began shutting down Grams-Helix around December 2017 and announced the platform’s closure in a Reddit thread under the GramsAdmin handle.
Through his plea, Harmon has agreed to forfeit over 4,400 bitcoin (valued at more than $200 million ) and other seized properties involved in the money laundering conspiracy.
Harmon faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, as well as a fine of $500,000, a term of three years of supervised release, and mandatory restitution.
$60 million civil money penalty
In October 2020, the US Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) also announced a penalty against Larry Dean Harmon.
FinCEN said the $60 million civil money penalty was for violating the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and its regulations while operating two services as unregistered money services businesses (MSB).
Harmon was the Helix bitcoin tumbler operator between 2014 and 2017 and the CEO of the Coin Ninja bitcoin startup from 2017 to 2020 when he was arrested under money laundering charges.
Based on FinCEN’s investigations, while operating the Helix cryptocurrency mixer, Harmon engaged in transactions with counterfeiters, fraudsters, narcotics traffickers, and other criminals.
“Beginning on or about June 6, 2014, through on or about December 16, 2017, Mr. Harmon doing business as Helix, conducted over 1,225,000 transactions for customers and is associated with virtual currency wallet addresses that have sent or received over $311 million,” FinCEN said.
The most significant volume of cryptocurrency laundered through Helix came from multiple dark web markets, including AlphaBay, Dream Mark, Agora Market, Nucleus, and several others.