In a recently released report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an investigative section of the United States Congress dedicated to auditing and evaluation in various subjects, suggested that crypto ATMs were becoming increasingly popular among traffickers in human beings and drugs, largely due to their unregulated nature and the difficulty of tracing transactions made through them. The study was conducted in September last year in an attempt to understand the level of use of virtual currencies in international trafficking operations and how US law enforcement could position themselves to counter the rise in crimes facilitated by cryptocurrency. The study also found that South American drug cartels and transnational criminal organizations used crypto ATMs to move millions of dollars across borders without attracting the attention of law enforcement. The report identified the biggest challenge facing agencies such as the United States Postal Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), in fighting against cryptographic crime, which is the lack of information on cryptographic ATMs. While crypto kiosks must register with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), there is currently no law requiring them to disclose the exact locations of their ATMs. This loophole limits law enforcement's ability to identify crypto ATMs in areas prone to financial crime. In the report, GAO suggested that the IRS and FinCEN needed to work together harder to regulate the registration and operation of crypto ATMs.
In 2013, government agencies successfully shut down Silk Road, one of the most popular dark web markets for illicit drugs and sex. However, this closure has led to the proliferation of newer and smaller markets which have made it even more difficult for law enforcement to detect them, especially after most of them have begun to accept crypto as payment. The report suggests that the difficulties associated with integrating debit and credit cards into their operations have led more than half of the nearly forty major online sex trading markets to start accepting cryptocurrencies as a form of payment. But even with the associated difficulty of tracking down cryptographic crime, the US government has had some success in combating the use of virtual currencies in drug and human trafficking. Last year alone, the IRS seized more than $ 3 billion worth of cryptocurrencies from criminals, with at least $ 1 billion tied to the infamous Silk Road. According to GAO, of all the IRS investigations involving crypto, a quarter are related to drug trafficking. For ICE, 36% of its crypto investigations were drug related. But the U.S. Postal Service had the largest percentage of drug-related crypto assets seized, with 85% of its crypto booty involved in drug trafficking.ATM ARTICLE