In-Depth: Reps. Ann Wagner (R-MO) and Juan Vargas (D-CA) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to require the Comptroller General of the U.S. to study how virtual currencies and online marketplaces are used to facilitate sex or drug trafficking, and to propose regulatory and legislative actions to put an end of these illicit activities. When they reintroduced this bill, Rep. Wagner said:
“Human traffickers have latched on to virtual currencies to avoid detection and prosecution,” said Rep. Ann Wagner. “The despicable use of virtual currencies is creating an unprecedented challenge for financial regulators, and this legislation gives us much-needed information to root out the traffickers who are anonymously transferring money and hiding their crimes from the public eye.”
Rep. Juan Vargas (D-CA) originally introduced this bill in the 115th Congress to require a report on cryptocurrencies' use in crimes such as sex trafficking and illegal drug sales. When he introduced this bill in 2018, Rep. Vargas said:
“The anonymity behind virtual currencies has made them a preferred payment method to carry out illegal activities… Congress must understand the full extent of how virtual currencies are being used to facilitate drug and sex trafficking and propose legislative solutions to fight these crimes.”
In the current Congress, there's one cosponsor of this bill, Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO). Last Congress, it passed the House by voice vote with the support of two cosponsors — one Democrat and one Republican. It also had the support of the Antiquities Coalition and the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
Of Note: Virtual currencies such as Bitcoin, Dash, Zcash, and Monero, which offer anonymity to their users, are rapidly becoming the preferred financial payment method for illicit activities thanks to their untraceable natures. Virtual currencies are quickly becoming the default payment method for goods and services associated with illegal sex and drug trafficking — two of the most detrimental and troubling activities facilitated by online marketplaces and the dark web.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), in its 2017 National Drug Assessment, reported that transnational criminal organizations are increasingly using virtual currencies for illicit activities, including drug trafficking. It has also been reported that virtual currencies are being used to run online drug marketplaces, including fentanyl, and contributing to the opioid crisis.
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: jpgfactory / iStock)