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Two Chinese Nationals Charged With Laundering $100M in Stolen Cryptocurrency

FILE - A general view of the Department of Justice building is seen in Washington, Feb 1, 2018.

Two Chinese nationals have been charged by U.S. prosecutors with laundering more than $100 million worth of cryptocurrency that had been stolen by North Korean hackers in 2018.

Tian Yinyin and Li Jiadong face charges of money laundering, conspiracy and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business, according to an indictment unsealed Monday.

U.S. authorities say North Korean hackers stole nearly $250 million from a virtual currency exchange in 2018 before laundering the money through hundreds of transactions in order to make the theft difficult to trace. The hackers are allegedly behind the theft of about $50 million from a South Korean virtual currency exchange in 2019.

In addition to bringing criminal charges against Yinyin and Jiadong, prosecutors filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington to seize control of 113 virtual currency accounts and addresses that had been used by the duo and other co-conspirators.

"Today's actions underscore that the [Justice] Department will pierce the veil of anonymity provided by cryptocurrencies to hold criminals accountable, no matter where they are located," assistant attorney general Brian A. Benczkowski said in a statement.

Yinyin and Jiadong operated virtual currency transmission services but conducted business in the United States without a permit from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.