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  • Writer's pictureMichael Bacina

Another (alleged) criminal caught courtesy of cryptocurrency

Another reminder of the power of public blockchains has seen a Russian national named Maksim Boiko arrested in Florida.

Boiko is a flamboyant rapper with a penchant for posting instagram pictures of his money, champagne and fancy holidays, is alleged to have been working with an international money laundering organisation known as QQAAZZ.

From humble beginnings, and a very modest start to his rapping career, Mr Boiko traveled to China and started posting photos of piles of money, claiming to have a highly successful business sourcing Chinese goods and services for others. The FBI Complaint alleges Mr Boiko conspired to commit money laundering.

Coindesk reports that suspicions were raised after Mr Boiko tried to enter the US with US$20,000 cash which he claimed was from rental properties and investments in Bitcoin. An investigation of Mr Boiko's phone found pictures of piles of money going back 5 years and conversations where Mr Boiko used the name "gangass". The rapper had used the same username on his Instagram account and the records of BTC-e (the exchange suspected of being involved in laundering the proceeds of the Mt. Gox hack) had an account for a "gangass" using the same email as the name of M Boiko's instagram account. The conversations on Mr Boiko's phone including communications with known criminals involved in the BTC-e money laundering allegations.

The full affidavit setting out the complaint is here, and it discloses allegations that:

  1. Mr Boiko set up bank accounts for known cybercriminals to receive wire transfers from bank accounts hacked by cyber criminals in countries including Australia;

  2. Conversations between Mr Boiko and others lead to an inference that Mr Boiko knew the funds were coming in from criminal activities (such as discussing black lists and compromised credentials);

  3. The dates of money transfers and photographs of money on Mr Boiko's social media are in alignment;

  4. evidence of the sale of credit cards and dirty Bitcoin wallets used for the proceeds of crime.

The affidavit is damning in joining the dots of a sophisticated criminal enterprise assisting scammers to launder money, and it remains to be seen if Mr Boiko is able to mount any kind of defence against the digital trail left behind by these activities. While most of the money laundering alleged in the FBI affidavit is "vanilla" bank account opening and international wire transfers, the involvement of Bitcoin and the immutable record of transactions on that blockchain enabled the FBI to refer to what they call "open source information" for transfers in evidence in the action against Mr Boiko.

This is yet another example of the immutable nature of Blockchain records being part of court proceedings to help catch (alleged) criminals.


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