Vietnamese man wanted by FBI for alleged money laundering in $3 billion darknet crypto scheme

March 16, 2023 - 17:45
According to the FBI, Minh was born on October 21, 1973, in the central province of Quảng Bình, and data suggests that from September 2016 to March 2022 he was in the Hà Nội area.
The notice of a Vietnamese man wanted by the FBI in a money laundering scheme. — Photo courtesy of US FBI

HÀ NỘI — The United States Department of Justice is seeking a 49-year-old man from Quảng Bình for his alleged involvement in a US$3 billion money laundering scheme.

Named 'Minh Quốc Nguyễn' on an FBI wanted notice, the Vietnamese national is wanted for alleged money laundering, operating an unlicensed money transmitting business and identity theft through the darknet cryptocurrency mixing service, ChipMixer.

According to the FBI, Minh was born on October 21, 1973, in the central province of Quảng Bình, and data suggests that from September 2016 to March 2022, he was in the Hà Nội area.

His aliases include Quoc-Minh Nguyen, James Smith, and David Minh, among others.

According to court documents, ChipMixer was one of the most widely used platforms to launder criminally-derived funds.

It allowed customers to deposit bitcoin, which ChipMixer then mixed with other users’ coins, moving the funds in such a way that made it difficult for law enforcement or regulators to trace the transactions.

ChipMixer is allegedly responsible for laundering over $3 billion in cryptocurrency.

Minh is wanted as part of the takedown of this service.

As alleged in the complaint, ChipMixer attracted a significant criminal clientele and became indispensable in obfuscating and laundering funds from multiple criminal schemes.

Minh faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison if convicted. The US Attorney’s Office for the eastern District of Pennsylvania is prosecuting the case.

According to the US Justice Department, beginning in and around August 2017, Minh created and operated the online infrastructure used by ChipMixer and promoted ChipMixer’s services online.

Minh registered domain names, procured hosting services and paid for the services used to run ChipMixer through the use of identity theft, pseudonyms, and anonymous email providers.

In online posts, Minh publicly derided efforts to curtail money laundering, posting about anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC) legal requirements that: “AML/KYC is a sellout to the banks and governments.”

He advised customers: “Please do not use AML/KYC exchanges” and instructed them how to use ChipMixer to evade reporting requirements, according to the complaints.

Minh has basic training in cryptographic engineering and previously worked in decrypting communications and cyber reconnaissance.

In 2016, Minh earned his PhD in Electronic Engineering in Taiwan, according to the FBI affidavit.

“Criminals have long sought to launder the proceeds of their illegal activity through various means,” said Special Agent in Charge Jacqueline Maguire of the FBI Philadelphia Field Office.

“Technology has changed the game though, with a site like ChipMixer and facilitator like [Minh Quốc] Nguyễn enabling bad actors to do so on a grand scale with ease.

"In response, the FBI continues to evolve in the ways we ‘follow the money’ of illegal enterprises, employing all the tools and techniques at our disposal and drawing on our strong partnerships at home and around the globe.

"As a result, there’s now one less option for criminals worldwide to launder their dirty money.” — VNS