March 25, 2024

Federal jury in DC convicts operator of Bitcoin Fog on money laundering charges

A federal jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia recently found Roman Sterlingov, a citizen of Russia and Sweden, guilty of money laundering in connection with his operation of darknet cryptocurrency mixer Bitcoin Fog between 2011 and 2021.  On March 12, 2024, Sterlingov was specifically found guilty of money laundering conspiracy, sting money laundering, operating an unlicensed money transmitting business, and violating the DC Money Transmitters Act.  He was also ordered to forfeit certain assets to the government that had previously been seized, including 1,354 Bitcoin in a Bitcoin Fog wallet and almost $350,000 worth of other cryptocurrencies held in a crypto currency exchange account.  Sterlingov is currently scheduled to be sentenced on July 15, 2024.  A federal court judge is also scheduled to consider an additional forfeiture money judgment.

According to evidence presented at trial, Bitcoin Fog was known for providing money laundering services to criminal actors seeking to hide illicit proceeds from law enforcement – services that only ended when Sterlingov was arrested in Los Angeles in April of 2021.  Federal prosecutors allege that more than 1.2 million Bitcoin, worth approximately $400 million at the time of the transactions, were laundered by Bitcoin Fog during its decade-long operation, including funds from darknet marketplaces involving illegal narcotics, computer fraud, child exploitation, and identity theft.   Sterlingov, who allegedly marketed Bitcoin Fog on darknet markets as a “tool for anonymizing bitcoin transactions,”  charged a fee for his mixing and tumbling services and allegedly made “millions in commissions” from these transactions.

USAO of DC Press Release | Complaint | Docket – Minute Entry