The Financial Crimes Enforcement Center has announced it has assessed a $60,000,000 civil money penalty against Larry Dean Harmon of Akron, Ohio, d/b/a Helix and primary operator of Coin Ninja LLC, , both convertible virtual currency "mixers" or "tumblers," for multiple violations of the Bank Secrecy Act and implementing regulations.
Harmon operated Helix from 2014 to 2017 and Coin Ninja from 2017 to 2020, as unregistered money services businesses, and is being prosecuted in federal court on charges of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments and operation of an unlicensed money transmitting business in connection with his operation of Helix.
Mr. Harmon, doing business as Helix and Coin Ninja, operated as an exchanger of convertible virtual currencies by accepting and transmitting bitcoin through a variety of means. From June 2014 through December 2017, Helix conducted over 1,225,000 transactions for its customers and was associated with virtual currency wallet addresses that sent or received over $311 million dollars. FinCEN’s investigation has identified at least 356,000 bitcoin transactions through Helix. Mr. Harmon operated Helix as a bitcoin mixer, or tumbler, and advertised its services in the darkest spaces of the internet as a way for customers to anonymously pay for things like drugs, guns, and child pornography. Mr. Harmon subsequently founded, and acted as Chief Executive Officer of, Coin Ninja, which operated as an unregistered MSB and in the same manner as Helix.
FinCEN's investigation demonstrated that Mr. Harmon deliberately disregarded his obligations under the BSA and implemented practices that allowed Helix to circumvent the BSA’s requirements. This included a failure to collect and verify customer names, addresses, and other identifiers on over 1.2 million transactions. Harmon, operating through Helix, actively deleted even the minimal customer information he did collect. The investigation revealed that Mr. Harmon engaged in transactions with narcotics traffickers, counterfeiters and fraudsters, as well as other criminals.
For additional information and a link to FinCEN's Order for Assessment of the Civil Money Penalty, see this BankersOnline penalty page.