Online criminals hawking lethal substances like fentanyl are demanding payments in Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum and Monero, according to a new White House report.
The report, intended to raise awareness about the fentanyl crisis, describes cryptocurrencies as one of the “predominant funding mechanisms associated with fentanyl trafficking.”
Cryptocurrencies apparently feature heavily in the two main routes fentanyl shipments take to reach the US: the direct purchasing of the substance from China for “personal consumption” and the cross-border trafficking of larger batches from Mexico.
“Within these two categories,” the report says, “the predominant funding mechanisms associated with fentanyl trafficking patterns include...purchases from a foreign source of supply made using convertible virtual currency (CVC) (such as bitcoin, bitcoin cash, ethereum, or monero).”
Other means of fundraising include online payment processors and “more general means of money laundering.”
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid and is considered to be around 100 times more lethal than heroin. Per an Atlantic investigation published last week, the chemicals used to cook up the substance are mostly shipped to the US via a network of Chinese call centers.
The statistics cited by the White House’s report are sobering; between 2013 and 2017, deaths in the United States from synthetic opioids, other than methadone, reportedly increased over 800 percent. And every day in the United States, more than 130 people die from an opioid-related overdose.
A darknet vendor was sentenced to 70 months in prison earlier this week for the flogging of opioids, including fentanyl, on markets like AlphaBay. And last week, New York Times linked Bitcoin to the terrorist group Hamas, which has been soliciting donations in the cryptocurrency.