How Victoria Police are chasing the crypto criminals

Usually the police respond to crises: if street gang crime is on the rise, set up a special unit; if road tolls spike, send more cars on the road.

But the cryptocurrency operations team was formed more than 12 months ago based on guesswork. There is no reliable data on crime levels and no comparable units in Australia to serve as a model.

Times are changing. Black and white TV homicide actors Jack Fagan, Leonard Thiel and Terry McDermott.

Times are changing. Black and white TV homicide actors Jack Fagan, Leonard Thiel and Terry McDermott.Credit: crawford productions

The police operate under the Crimes Act, which came into force in 1958 – Australia introduced black and white television two years later and Qantas was still flying propeller-driven planes to London.

Crime is localized, crooks hide in their turf, and the police rarely travel. The police have a way of gathering evidence and catching criminals. Sure, there have been developments like DNA and CCTV, but the actual system hasn’t changed (except that detectives don’t wear pork pie hats anymore).

How do you investigate a crime when the criminal is in an office in Moscow and the victim is sitting on their sofa in Footscray?

How do you seize criminal assets when there is no cash and profits can be moved overseas at the touch of a button?

Investigators have had to throw out old rulebooks again and again, Achtypis said.

“It’s not just about resharpening the same old tools, it’s about going to the drawing board and designing entirely new tools, really understanding that many of these tools may only be useful for a short time before they themselves become obsolete,” he said.

It is the ultimate work of online chess. Crooks are always looking for weaknesses to exploit, while police are looking for weaknesses in a criminal organization’s defenses.


This means that almost every police breakthrough is redundant. Like the flu shot, what works one year will be obsolete next year.

Not so long ago, crooks were laundering money at racetracks, buying businesses, and setting up companies run by their lackeys or buried cash. The late drug dealer Dennis Allen is rumored to have left a fortune underground.

The Cryptocurrency Operations Team uncovered a local money laundering operation that moved nearly $500 million over six months.

Achtypis said funds from south-east Asia, of unknown origin, were used to buy real estate in Australia and around the world. “They bought all the types that were available at both ends of the market – land, commercial property and residential.

“This means homebuyers are indirectly competing with criminals at auction.”

The crook has embraced online money laundering because, he says, “it’s safer than having a pile of cash, you don’t have to trust a middleman, and you can move money anywhere in the world without using a bank”.

How Achtypis Became an International Cyber ​​Police After graduating from Monash University in Sociology and Psychology, he felt he lacked life experience and decided to join the police force for a few years to gain experience. Twenty-seven years later, he is still there.

There is a little indulgence here. (In this column? Surely not.) Dion said after reading critically acclaimed crime books such as (Again, Surely Not) weakness A series co-written by this journalist who decides to become a liar catcher.

A self-confessed computer nerd, he joined the electronic crimes squad in 2012. The following year, a suburban detective, suspicious of returning information to a suspect from a seized computer, called the team. A check revealed drug trafficking via the dark web and 24,500 bitcoins, worth $3.4 million at the time, Achtypis said. “At its peak, it was worth $2.4 billion.”

Since its inception, the three-person cryptocurrency operations team has uncovered local money laundering, assisted in the seizure of 44 virtual currencies totaling $13 million, exposed serious corruption, and facilitated more than 200 major crimes investigation. Pound for pound, they must be the most effective investigators in the country. Not bad for a unit that can host a Christmas party in a phone booth (or a small internet cafe).

Dion loves his job, his colleagues grow in love with their work, and the seasoned detective embraces new methods. “They took it like ducks meet water. It’s a shiny new investigative tool.”

One of more than 100 arrests by the Australian Federal Police in Operation Ironside.

One of more than 100 arrests by the Australian Federal Police in Operation Ironside.

These six facts, he says, speak for themselves:

  • Australia owned second highest concentration The number of darknet drug dealers in the world is second only to the Netherlands.
  • Over the past 24 hours, $50 billion worth of Bitcoin changed hands.
  • World Economic Forum lays out cyberattacks and data theft in its report Top Ten Risksbetween extreme weather events and armed conflict.
  • Sixty percent of human communication is data-based.
  • Fake identity technology that was only available to high-end hackers a few years ago is now available through off-the-shelf applications.
  • Data-based businesses have oil change as the most valuable industry in the world.

The difference is that the police in the new world can turn the computer weapons used by crooks against them. They may have dug a moat, but there’s always a bridge.

You said no one was home when the house was on fire? So how does a smart refrigerator turn on 30 minutes before a fire? You said you were sleeping at home when the attack happened? So what’s up with the pulse rate on your smartwatch being 170 bpm?

Operation Ironside is a perfect example of the new rules.Exploitation of former gang insiders, Australian Federal Police and FBI Building the mobile app An0msold as a rock-solid encrypted phone system for scammers.

It grew to 12,000 phones, connecting 300 criminals around the world. But there was a backdoor, and 27 million messages sent over three years were automatically downloaded to police-friendly servers.

Scammers who were convinced years ago that their dark web money flows were untraceable should be on alert. The cryptocurrency movement leaves traces, Achtypis said. You just need to find the tools to follow the money.

Just like DNA, as the science develops, there will be more positive results and more beliefs.

There is more than one way to hide a chest of ill-gotten wealth.

There is more than one way to hide a chest of ill-gotten wealth.Credit: in stock

Cryptocurrency operations teams have developed a cold-case capability to review cryptocurrency movements, meaning a criminal who believed he had managed to steal millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency some time ago was recently arrested. There will be more.

While the technology has changed, the motive is the same — making money illegally and hiding it, Achtypis said. They are modern-day pirates who use the dark web instead of shovels to bury their treasure.

take nigerian scamin which someone sent thousands of emails saying they had millions of people locked up unfairly and needed only a little financial help to share the wealth.

Before it was a Nigerian scam (or 419 scam, as it’s also called), it was called spanish prisonerIt was a letter from a prison inmate postmarked in Barcelona enclosing two checks worth £75,000, pleading for a £25,000 reward if the recipients help get the money back.

The sting began in 1807.

“We started with gold, then banknotes and coins, now cryptocurrencies. There was snail mail, then faxes, now social media,” Achtypis said.

“It’s really the same old scam. Nothing has changed.”

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