Crypto, NFTs Are Rife With ‘Mountains’ of Fraud, IRS Says
IRS criminal investigators see cryptocurrencies and nonfungible tokens as ripe for fraud, including money laundering, market manipulation and tax evasion -- and even celebrities could get caught up in the agency’s probes.
Digital assets have been a growing concern for government agencies as they’ve become more mainstream, with regulators grappling over how to police the tokens and carry out enforcement activities to deter investors from engaging in criminal activity.
“We’re just seeing mountains and mountains of fraud in this area,” said Ryan Korner, special agent in charge of the Los Angeles field office at the IRS’s criminal investigation division. The division is tasked with probing tax crimes and related financial crimes.
Celebrities aren’t immune to the IRS’s criminal probes, Korner said late Tuesday at a virtual event hosted by the USC Gould School of Law. “We’re not necessarily out there looking for celebrities, but when they make a blatant or open comment that says ‘Hey, IRS, you should probably come look at me,’ that’s what we do.”
IRS investigators seized $3.5 billion worth of cryptocurrencies tied to financial crimes during fiscal year 2021, a figure that accounted for 93% of all the assets seized by the division in that time frame. IRS CI ended the year with 80 cases in its inventory that it was still actively working where the primary violation was tied to crypto, Korner said.