The United States tax body, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), says it believes the crypto and non-fungible token (NFT) space is beset with “fraud” – and has warned that celebrities promoting crypto on social media could face probes.
Bloomberg reported that the comments came from Ryan Korner, a special agent who leads the Los Angeles field office of the IRS’s Criminal Investigation department – which investigates tax and financial crimes. Speaking at an event organized by the USC Gould School of Law, Korner claimed:
“We’re just seeing mountains and mountains of fraud in this area. […] We’re not necessarily out there looking for celebrities, but when they make a blatant or open comment that says: ‘Hey, IRS, you should probably come look at me’ – that’s what we do.”
Korner added that NFTs and crypto are “ripe for market manipulation,” and opined that “high-profile investors” wield the ability to “sway asset prices with a single tweet.”
The IRS is responding by beefing up its capacities to fight crypto and NFT-related crime by training its staff in new and digital forms of crime – with an emphasis on crypto and NFT-related matters.
Korner said of crypto and NFTs:
“This space is the future.”
He added that the IRS was not acting alone, either, and was “looking to increase collaboration and information sharing with other federal agencies,” such as the Department of Justice, in order “to make sure everyone is on the same page.”
Korner hinted that NFT prices appeared to be unduly inflated, and that this fact was cause for concern for the agency.
He claimed that operatives “worry when they see people paying millions of dollars for assets like NFTs” – particularly if they “don’t seem to have that kind of inherent value.”
The IRS, Korner added, thinks that criminals can use inflated prices and market manipulation tactics to launder money from underworld enterprises and drug trafficking rackets.
Earlier this month, the IRS indicated that it was willing to step up its scrutiny of crypto ATMs in the United States, after accusations that the machines could be used to facilitate payments to fund criminal behavior including human trafficking and drug sales.
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