Blockchain’s Sherlock Holmes: Erin Plante

The Setting: Axie Infinity in March 2022
The Stage: The largest blockchain hack in history.
(This story is inspired by NPR. For a detailed account, read it here.)

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. – Sherlock Holmes

The Game is Afoot

In the complex landscape of cryptocurrency, a mystery unraveled. One that could rival the challenges faced by the legendary detective, Sherlock Holmes. However, this wasn’t the foggy streets of Victorian London; it was the digital corridors of $AXS.

Erin Plante, with her expertise in blockchain, was gearing up for a pivotal investigation. Axie Infinity, the blockchain version of Pokemon, had suffered a setback. Not from a cunning adversary like Moriarty but from a digital breach that resulted in a staggering $600 million disappearing into the virtual abyss. 🔍

The Clues Left Behind

“You see, but you do not observe.” – Sherlock Holmes

While the digital world buzzed with the news of the heist, Erin, blockchain’s modern-day Holmes, was already on the case. Every transaction and move was a footprint left behind by the culprits. But unlike footprints, these digital moves were permanent, indelible, and immutable. 🕵️‍♂️

The Chase Begins

“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.” – Sherlock Holmes

Erin and her team monitored was in hot pursuit as the criminals moved the stolen crypto, changing wallets, splitting money, and swapping currencies. But this was a digital chase, with Erin and her team tracking every move, every transaction, every hint of where the money might be headed.

In a twist that would have intrigued Holmes himself, the criminals began using mixers, digital tools designed to obfuscate the origins of cryptocurrency, making it almost impossible to trace. 

She had seen these tactics before and knew that behind the complex web of transactions; the truth lay waiting to be uncovered. She knew how to unmix the mixed. 🕴️

The North Korean Connection

“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.” – Sherlock Holmes

As the pieces of the puzzle began to fit together, a picture emerged that pointed to one of the most formidable adversaries in the crypto world: North Korea. 

Much like Holmes and Watson, Erin and her team worked tirelessly, tracking the stolen funds, reaching out to exchanges, and piecing together the intricate web of transactions.

The clock was ticking, and every second counted. 🕰️

The Conclusion

“What one man can invent, another can discover.” – Sherlock Holmes

While the entire sum couldn’t be recovered, Erin’s relentless pursuit ensured that a significant portion was frozen and kept out of the wrong hands.

The Axie Infinity heist was a stark reminder of the challenges and dangers of the crypto world. But it also highlighted the brilliance of individuals like Erin, who work to ensure that justice is served with their dedication and expertise.

In the end, as the dust settled on this digital caper, one thing was clear: the world of crypto had found its Sherlock Holmes in Erin Plante.

The hack remains the largest crypto heist in history. 😱

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Zhao Waves Farewell to Binance CEO Role in a $4.3 Billion DOJ Deal

In November 2022, FTX collapsed, and Sam Bankman-Fried’s road to ruin began. The crypto market at the time was already on a route, down -66% from its August 2021 all-time highs. 📺

CZs tweet in November 2022 triggered another wipeout in crypto, with the total market cap dropping -27.5% over seventeen days, extending the total loss from the all-time high to -76%. 

In one year, two things: tried SBF and found him guilty. Then they pulled off a somewhat less dramatic but nonetheless major takedown (via massive fines and settlement) of Binance and its now former CEO, CZ. 

According to the presser released by the DOJ, here’s a quick rundown of what went down:

  • Binance Pleads Guilty: Binance Holdings Limited pleaded guilty to anti-money laundering, unlicensed money transmitting, and sanctions violations.
  • Historic Penalty: Binance agreed to pay over $4 billion to resolve the Justice Department’s investigation, marking one of the largest corporate penalties in U.S. history.
  • CEO’s Guilty Plea: Changpeng Zhao, Binance’s CEO, also pleaded guilty to failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program and resigned as CEO.
  • Coordinated Resolutions: The plea is part of coordinated resolutions with the Department of Treasury’s FinCEN, OFAC, and the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
  • Attorney General’s Statement: Attorney General Merrick B. Garland emphasized that Binance’s rise was partly due to its criminal activities and stressed the consequences of using technology to break the law.
  • Treasury Secretary’s Remarks: Janet L. Yellen highlighted Binance’s willful legal failures, allowing money to flow to terrorists and other criminals through its platform.
  • Deputy Attorney General’s Warning: Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco warned crypto and DeFi companies about the importance of complying with U.S. law.
  • Intentional Violations: Binance and Zhao willfully violated anti-money laundering and sanctions laws, threatening U.S. financial systems and national security.
  • Binance’s Growth Strategy: Binance prioritized growth and profits over compliance, knowingly operating without anti-money laundering safeguards and allowing illegal transactions.
  • Forfeiture and Fine: Binance agreed to forfeit $2.51 billion and pay a criminal fine of $1.81 billion, totaling a financial penalty of $4.31 billion. They also agreed to retain an independent compliance monitor for three years and enhance their anti-money laundering and sanctions compliance programs.
  • Zhao’s Role: Zhao admitted to prioritizing Binance’s growth over compliance, causing illegal transactions, and failing to implement effective anti-money laundering protocols. 📻

A few hours after the Binance and CZ news came out, Coinbase’s CEO, Brian Armstrong, took to X:

From the perspective of gaining, keeping, and acquiring the US crypto customer base, Coinbase is sitting pretty nicely right now. 


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Now, here’s where it gets juicy for the crypto crowd. Milei is a big fan of Bitcoin – like, “write love songs about it” level of fandom. He’s all about decentralized finance (DeFi) and isn’t shy about throwing shade at central banks. 

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Included in today’s Technically Speaking are: Chainlink, Uniswap, Monero, and Ethereum.

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The first significant development is that Binance’s Changpeng Zhao is reportedly sacrificing himself to save the company. The Wall Street Journal indicated that the founder and CEO plans to step down and plead guilty to violating criminal U.S. anti-money-laundering laws. Binance will also plead guilty to a criminal charge and pay $4.3b in fines to settle civil allegations.

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