The administrator of Helix, one of the best darkweb search engines has pleaded guilty to money laundering charges.
Larry Dean Harmon, 38, of Akron, Ohio, has pleaded guilty to one count of Conspiracy To Launder Monetary Instruments. Court documents revealed that Harmon created Grams, a popular Bitcoin tumbler, that operated from 2014 to 2017. Harmon was indicted in 2020.
Harmon admitted that Helix partnered with several Darknet markets, including AlphaBay, Evolution, Cloud 9, and others, to provide bitcoin money-laundering services for market customers. In total, Helix moved over 350,000 bitcoin – valued at over $300 million at the time of the transactions – on behalf of customers, with the largest volume coming from Darknet markets. Harmon further admitted that he conspired with Darknet vendors and marketplace administrators to launder such bitcoins generated through illegal drug trafficking offenses on those Darknet marketplaces.
Harmon agreed to forfeit more than 4,400 bitcoin, valued at more than $200 million at today’s prices as part of his plea.
In 2016, an FBI investigator in the District of Columbia transferred 0.16 Bitcoin from an Alphabay wallet to Helix. Helix service mixed the Bitcoin and provided the FBI with Bitcoin that was not traceable to Alphabay.
The FBI also knew about Harmon’s communications with the admins of the Evolution darkweb marketplace. The Evolution admins agreed to promote his service as a “great method” to conduct Bitcoin transactions. Court documents also referenced the API saying at least one market successfully implemented it.
Harmon faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved, a term of supervised release of not more than three years, and mandatory restitution.
Additionally, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) announced a $60 million civil money penalty against Harmon. FinCEN reported that Grams had a Bitcoin mixing service designed to “launder” Bitcoin, failed to comply with Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) regulations. They said that Helix did not incorporate any anti-money laundering system or follow the “Know Your Customer” rules.