U.S. Authorities Arrest Two in $73 Million Crypto Money Laundering Scheme

United States authorities have arrested two individuals accused of orchestrating a money laundering operation that funneled over $73 million through U.S. financial institutions and converted the funds into Tether (USDT) as reported.

The Justice Department announced on Friday that Daren Li, 41, was apprehended at Atlanta’s airport on April 12, while Yicheng Zhang, 38, was taken into custody in Los Angeles on Thursday. An indictment against the pair was unsealed in a California court on Thursday, detailing their alleged involvement in the scheme.

Li and Zhang are accused of leading a transnational criminal network that laundered millions through ‘pig butchering’ crypto scams. These scams involve fraudsters gaining victims’ trust, convincing them to invest large sums, and then disappearing with the funds.

The defendants allegedly directed co-conspirators to open U.S. bank accounts under the names of shell companies. They then persuaded victims to transfer millions of dollars into these accounts, which were used to launder the illicit funds.

According to the Department of Justice, the money was dispersed to various domestic and international bank accounts. The DOJ stated, “The fraud scheme involved more than $73 million laundered through U.S. financial institutions to bank accounts in the Bahamas and converted to the virtual asset USDT, or Tether. A cryptocurrency wallet involved in the scheme received more than $341 million in virtual assets.”

Daren Li and Yicheng Zhang face charges of conspiring to launder money and six counts of international money laundering. If convicted, they could each face a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment for each count, potentially totaling 140 years behind bars.

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