US Citizen Arrested For Helping North Korea Evade Sanctions

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A U.S. citizen was arrested in Los Angeles on his return from North Korea after allegedly providing highly technical information on using cryptocurrency and blockchain technology to help the Communist government launder money and evade U.S. sanctions.

The Department of Justice said in a statement that Virgil Griffith, 36, was charged with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), and presented in Manhattan federal court on Monday.

Conspiring to violate the IEEPA is a crime that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. U.S. citizens are prohibited from exporting goods, services, or technology to North Korea without a license from the Treasury Department.

"Despite receiving warnings not to go, Griffith allegedly traveled to one of the United States' foremost adversaries, North Korea, where he taught his audience how to use blockchain technology to evade sanctions," said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers.

Despite the U.S. Department of State denying permission, Griffit traveled to Pyongyong in April to attend the "DPRK Cryptocurrency Conference."

At the conference, Griffith made a presentation on how North Korea could use blockchain and cryptocurrency technology, including a "smart contract," to launder money and evade sanctions.

After the Conference, Griffith began formulating plans to facilitate the exchange of cryptocurrency between North Korea and South Korea, DOJ said in a press release.

Griffith allegedly encouraged other U.S. citizens to travel to North Korea to attend next year's Cryptocurrency Conference.

The Singapore resident also announced his intention to renounce his U.S. citizenship and began researching how to purchase citizenship from other countries, DOJ said.

The case was investigated by FBI's New York Field Office, Counterintelligence Division.

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