Inside a $30 Million Cash-for-Bitcoin Laundering Ring in the Heart of New York

Court records provide rare insight into an alleged IRL criminal Bitcoin exchange involving men dropping massive bags of cash to one another.
A collage of surveillance footage and photos as part of the case.
Image: 404 Media

This article was produced in collaboration with Court Watch, an independent outlet that unearths overlooked court records.

For years, a gang operating in New York allegedly offered a cash-for-Bitcoin service that generated at least $30 million, with men standing on street corners with plastic shopping bags full of money, drive-by pickups, and hundreds of thousands of dollars laid out on tables, according to court records

The records provide rare insight into an often unseen part of the criminal underworld: how hackers and drug traffickers convert their Bitcoin into cash outside of the online Bitcoin exchanges that ordinary people use. Rather than turning to sites like Coinbase, which often collaborate with and provide records to law enforcement if required, some criminals use underground, IRL Bitcoin exchanges like this gang which are allegedly criminal entities in their own right.

In a long spanning investigation by the FBI involving a confidential source and undercover agents, one member of the crew said “that at least some of his clients made money by selling drugs, that his wealthiest clients were hackers, and that he had made approximately $30 million over the prior three years through the exchange of cash for virtual currency,” the court records read.