(Bloomberg) -- Two founders of the Samourai Wallet crypto-mixing service were charged by federal prosecutors with helping launder $100 million in crime proceeds.  

Keonne Rodriguez and William Lonergan Hill were charged with a money laundering conspiracy and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business from 2015 through February 2024. 

During that time, Samourai was used to process $2 billion in anonymous financial transactions, providing a “haven for criminals to engage in large-scale money laundering and sanctions evasion,” US prosecutors said in an indictment unsealed Wednesday in Manhattan.

Regulators globally have sought to crack down on crypto mixers, which are designed to obscure the origins and destinations of certain transactions. In March, the founder of a mixing service known as Bitcoin Fog was convicted in Washington of helping to launder tens of millions of dollars from darknet markets known for selling illegal drugs.

Samourai laundered money from illegal darkweb marketplaces including Silk Road and Hydra Market as well as various computer fraud schemes, according to the indictment.

Rodriguez, 35, was arrested Wednesday morning and was expected to appear in federal court in western Pennsylvania by Thursday. Hill, 65, was arrested in Portugal. US authorities will seek his extradition, the government said in a statement.

Lawyers for the two men could not be identified for comment on the charges, which carry a maximum of 25 years in prison. Rodriguez was the company’s chief executive officer and Hill the chief technology officer.

Samourai Wallet was marketed as a privacy program with customers around the globe. The Samourai Wallet application has allegedly been downloaded more than 100,000 times.

Welcome ‘Oligarch’ Users

Prosecutors claimed Rodriguez and Hill posted messages to Twitter, the social media platform now known as “X,” that touted Samourai’s ability to anonymize transactions.

“Welcome new Russian oligarch Samourai Wallet users,” Rodriguez said in a 2022 post, according to the US.

Investigators worked with Icelandic authorities to seize Samourai web servers and served a warrant on Google to have the application removed from the Google Play store.

Samourai helped prevent tracing of funds through its “Whirlpool” service, which coordinated crypto exchanges among users. It also disguised transactions through “Ricochet,” which added “hops,” or extra intermediate transactions, between the payer and recipient, according to the government.

Samourai allegedly made $3.4 million in fees from Whirlpool and $1.1 million from Richochet.

In 2022, the UK’s National Crime Agency identified Samourai Wallet as an example of a service that could be used by criminals for illicit purposes. That followed an earlier declaration from Europol, the European law enforcement agency, that decentralized wallets like Samourai represented an emerging “top threat.”

“These wallets do not necessarily remove the link between the origin and destination of the funds but certainly make cryptocurrency tracing much more challenging,” the agency said in a 2020 report.

The case is US v. Rodriguez, 24-cr-00082, US District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

--With assistance from stacy-marie ishmael.

(Adds details of charges.)

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