In a statement, the Manhattan DA alleged that between January 2018 and August 2021, the 42-year-old Thomas Spieker converted over $2.3 million into Bitcoin, and separately, more than $380,000 of Bitcoin into U.S. dollars, via “a rotating set of accomplices” who opened bank and crypto exchange accounts to enable the laundering of “criminal proceeds.”
“As alleged, this sprawling web of international money laundering helped drug traffickers, an organized crime ring, and scammers hide their criminal activity and transmit their proceeds around the globe,” New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in the announcement. “This case shows us how new technologies like cryptocurrency can become key drivers of a wide range of criminal activity that can easily span across the globe.”
Dustin Sites, 32, whom the DA says aided Spieker in the scheme, faces one count of unlicensed money transmission. Several of Spieker's clients, whom the Manhattan DA also investigated, face charges on running an illegal drug marketplace on the dark web and an identify theft scheme, the latter of which allegedly victimized 30 people.
The complaint alleges that in 2014 Spieker began researching the phrase “bitcoin money laundering” in Google searches, and that he wrote a Facebook post saying that his services were for individuals “who wanted to stay completely off the radar,” with an understanding that they were engaged in illegal activity.
Spieker and three three proxies, including Sites, allegedly met with clients who handed them cash in exchange for Bitcoin, or “vice-versa,” and collected a 4% to 12% fee. Spieker and his accomplices allegedly opened 28 bank accounts and eight cryptocurrency exchange accounts.
Ricky Patel, the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York agent overseeing the investigation, said in the announcement that Spieker had “openly bragged about laundering illicit proceeds.”