NEW YORK -- The Manhattan District Attorney calls it a takedown of a global bitcoin money laundering operation.
Thursday afternoon, several defendants were arraigned on numerous charges.
As CBS2's Andrea Grymes reports, they stayed silent outside the courtroom, but inside, all six defendants pleaded not guilty to a range of different charges.
The Manhattan District Attorney says 42-year-old Thomas Spieker and his accomplices used bitcoin to facilitate a wide-range of criminal activity, including dark-web drug sales.
D.A. Alvin Bragg said in a statement, "As alleged, this sprawling web of international money laundering helped drug traffickers, an organized crime ring, and scammers hide their criminal activity and transmit their proceeds around the globe."
In just one part of the alleged scheme, prosecutors say Spieker laundered more than $380,000 to accomplices Zashan Khan and Cosma Siekierski.
They're charged with manufacturing and selling drugs like MDMA and counterfeit Xanax through their dark web vendor OVO Sweatshop, which prosecutors say took its moniker and logo from rapper Drake and his October's Very Own clothing line. They allegedly shipped the drugs to all 50 states from mailboxes in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Spieker is also accused of laundering $620,000 for a client, who's an alleged member of an eastern European organized crime syndicate, and $267,000 for the operator of a Nigeria-based romance scam.
While cryptocurrency is gaining in popularity, investigators say criminals are also using it to launder dirty money with perceived anonymity.
The defendants are all facing different charges, including conspiracy and money laundering. They were all released without bail and due back in court in May.
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