United States authorities have arrested a Russian national under allegations of money laundering — using his Instagram that promoted his rap career as evidence against him.
Per court filings unsealed on March 30, an FBI investigator alleged that Maksim Boiko laundered money using cryptocurrencies, including via disgraced exchange BTC-e. The authorities also say that Boiko conspired with transnational organized crime organization QQAAZZ.
Initial detainment in Miami airport in January
Seemingly a resident of Los Angeles, Boiko entered the U.S. on January 19 carrying $20,000 in cash. According to the FBI affidavit, Boiko told airport security that his money came from investments in Bitcoin and rental properties in Russia.
Skeptical of this explanation, authorities would go on to arrest Boiko in Miami on March 27.
Rap career and questionable source of income
What the filings do not mention is that Boiko is also a small-time rapper operating under the name Plinofficial — a name also used in an email address that the FBI identified as being connected with money laundering operations.
Boiko had allegedly used email address email@example.com to register an account on BTC-e under his real name. According to the FBI, “data from BTC-e showed that Boiko’s account had received $387,964 worth of deposits and had withdrawn approximately 136 Bitcoin.”
As of press time, Plinoffial’s Youtube account had 336 subscribers, while his Instagram has 2,363.
Social media evidence
Boiko’s social media presence was apparently a factor in the investigation. The FBI investigator testifying against Boiko said pictures from his Instagram are:
“Inconsistent with the practices of a legitimate business operation and are consistent with the allegations set forth herein that Boiko has engaged in illegal money laundering activities with significant cybercriminals for the past several years.”
Indeed, Boiko seems very fond of pictures of him holding large wads of cash. The filing cites the below shots, posted on his Instagram on May 13, 2017 and March 24, 2016, respectively and still viewable as of press time:
Source: Boiko’s Instagram
Source: Boiko’s Instagram. Cointelegraph has blocked out an ethnic slur in one of the comments.
Though the affidavit alleges that Boiko’s money laundering began in 2015, Cointelegraph located a similar picture on social media platform VKontakte featuring Boiko holding stacks of 5,000-ruble bills — the highest denomination currently issued in Russia:
Boiko is scheduled for a detention hearing tomorrow, April 2.
The role of BTC-e in laundering crypto
A major player in Boiko’s drama is BTC-e, a crypto exchange that was shut down by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2017.
This past fall, reports circulated alleging that nearly half a billion dollars worth of BTC lost on the exchange had gone to Russian intelligence agency, the FSB.