Tether, the issuer of the largest stablecoin by market capitalization, and OKX, one of the leading cryptocurrency exchanges, announced today that they have frozen $225 million worth of USDT tokens in collaboration with the United States Department of Justice. The frozen tokens are allegedly linked to an international human trafficking syndicate in Southeast Asia that is responsible for a global “pig butchering” romance scam.
Tokens traced to Ethereum addresses associated with criminal organization
According to a joint press release, Tether and OKX received a request from the DOJ to freeze the USDT tokens that were traced to several Ethereum addresses associated with the criminal organization. The syndicate is accused of luring victims through dating apps, social media, and online communities, and then convincing them to invest in fraudulent cryptocurrency platforms. The scammers refer to their victims as pigs, whom they fatten up to be “butchered” – or conned, out of as much money as possible.
“We are committed to working with law enforcement agencies around the world to combat illicit activity involving our tokens and platforms,” said Paolo Ardoino, the chief technology officer of Tether. “We have the ability to freeze and reverse transactions for USDT issued on the Ethereum and TRON blockchains, and we will not hesitate to use it when necessary to protect our users and the integrity of our ecosystem.”
Investigation is ongoing to identify and arrest members of the syndicate
Jay Hao, the chief executive officer of OKX, said that the exchange has a zero-tolerance policy for any illegal or suspicious activity on its platform.
“We have a robust anti-money laundering and compliance system that monitors and flags any suspicious transactions on our platform. We are proud to cooperate with Tether and the DOJ in this investigation and we will continue to work closely with them to bring the perpetrators to justice,” he said.
The DOJ said that the investigation is ongoing and that it is working with authorities in several countries to identify and arrest the members of the syndicate. The DOJ also warned the public to be vigilant and cautious when engaging in online relationships or investing in cryptocurrency platforms that are not regulated or verified.