Helix Admin pleads guilty to Laundering $300 Million in Bitcoin

The operator of Helix, a prominent darkweb search engine, has admitted to charges of money laundering.

Larry Dean Harmon, 38, from Akron, Ohio, pleaded guilty to a Conspiracy To Launder Monetary Instruments charge. According to court records, Harmon developed Grams, a popular Bitcoin mixer, which operated from 2014 to 2017. Harmon was indicted in 2020.

Harmon confessed that Helix collaborated with various Darknet markets, including AlphaBay, Evolution, Cloud 9, and others, to offer bitcoin money-laundering services to market clientele. Helix processed over 350,000 bitcoin – valued at over $300 million during the transactions – for customers, primarily sourced from Darknet markets. Harmon also admitted to conspiring with Darknet vendors and marketplace administrators to launder bitcoins generated through illegal drug trafficking on these platforms.

As part of his guilty plea, Harmon agreed to forfeit more than 4,400 bitcoins, currently valued at over $200 million.

In 2016, an FBI investigator from the District of Columbia sent 0.16 Bitcoin from an Alphabay wallet to Helix. Helix mixed the Bitcoin and provided the FBI with untraceable Bitcoin unlinked to Alphabay.

The FBI was aware of Harmon’s communications with Evolution darkweb marketplace administrators, who endorsed his service as an effective method for Bitcoin transactions. Court documents also referred to the successful implementation of Harmon’s API by at least one market.

Harmon faces a maximum prison term of 20 years, a fine of $500,000 or double the property value involved, supervised release for up to three years, and mandatory restitution.

Furthermore, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) imposed a $60 million civil penalty against Harmon. FinCEN stated that Grams’ Bitcoin mixing service, designed to “launder” Bitcoin, did not comply with Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) regulations. They noted that Helix lacked any anti-money laundering system or adherence to “Know Your Customer” rules.

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