How FBI can spoil your holiday if you’re running a crypto business

Xyz Zyx
9 min readOct 6, 2022
from cointelegraph’s story

As Daniel checked his laptop one last time his wife, Eliza glared at him with her stunning but cutting blue eyes. He finished typing up an email, pressed send, then turned his laptop off. It was a strange feeling to be separating himself from it even for a short period of time. But he knew it was necessary.

He stood and walked over to his wife, gently moving the blonde curls away from her face as he kissed her. “I’m putting it away,” he promised her. “This vacation is about our family, and I promise that will be my focus. I can’t wait to spend all this time with you and Adrian.”

“I’m looking forward to it more than you know,” she said, holding him close.

Daniel’s job as a manger of the crypto company, and work left him busy much of the time. It made him good money that allowed him to support his family. But lately things had been a little rocky between him and Eliza. The time spent away from her and his young son was starting to wear down on them, causing a pattern of erosion to his marriage.

This was his chance to fix that though. He was going to show her how much his family meant to him. This was going to be their way to reconnect again.

“I can’t believe we’re going to Disneyland!” Adrian yelled as he bounced into his parents’ bedroom. His light brown hair, a mixture of his mother’s lighter hair and his father’s dark hair, was a tangled mess. His blue eyes that mimicked his parents were wide and bright with enthusiasm.

“It’s going to be fun,” Daniel agreed, scooping the five-year-old up in his arms. “It’s going to be the best family vacation ever.”

The family excitedly discussed all of the fun things they had planned for the California vacation. They weren’t just going to Disneyland. They had other things lined up for each day of their trip starting the day after they landed. As long as their flight wasn’t late or anything, everything was planned in the best way.

First, they had a long day of flying ahead of them though before they could reach the luxurious hotel they were staying in. They finished packing up their last-minute items then piled into the car for their exciting adventure.

The day started off well enough. Daniel and Eliza held hands as they got out of their car and snuggled into each other for the first part of their flight. Thanks to their early morning departure, Adrian fell asleep quickly, leaving his parents with time to talk.

“I’m so glad we’re getting to bond like this,” Eliza said after engaging in a deep conversation with her husband. “You’re my best friend, Daniel, but I’ve felt so distant from you lately. I appreciate all the work you do, but this time is needed for us to reconnect. I feel like I’m falling in love with you all over again.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” Daniel replied, then kissed the top of her head. “I know I’ve let work get to me too much. I need to carve out more time for the family. This trip is just the start of that. I’m going to find a better work/life balance.”

Shortly after, Adrian woke up and things grew a little tenser. It was easy to entertain him for a little while at least. But then, he grew bored. He was tired of sitting on the plane for hours, they all were. That early morning and lack of sleep really started to get to them.

By the time their plane landed, they were all feeling a little grumpy, tired, and drained. They were looking forward to getting to their hotel and diffusing for the night, ready to start on the fun part of their vacation.

As soon as they claimed their luggage though, two men with FBI jackets approached them. The family couldn’t believe when the big, burly agents with their buzz cuts and stern eyes stopped in front of them.

They hadn’t done anything wrong, but still they started to feel anxious. It was confusing and a little frightening. Why would they be approached by these people?

“Are you Daniel and Eliza Watson?” the lead FBI agent asked in a deep voice.

“We are,” Daniel replied hesitantly.

“I’m Agent Fletcher,” he replied. “And this is my partner, Agent Calhan. We’re going to need to speak with you privately.”

Eliza looked at Daniel with fear and confusion in her eyes which disturbed him. It was like she expected him to have the answers when he hadn’t done anything wrong. He didn’t know why these agents wanted to speak with them.

“What about our son?” Daniel asked.

“We have a room he can wait in where he will be safe while we talk,” Fletcher promised them.

Daniel could tell by the agent’s tone that there was no getting out of this. It wasn’t a request; it was an order. So, the family followed the agent through the airport.

It was embarrassing being led by agents past all of those people. Onlookers stared at them like there was something wrong with them, like they were bad people. Daniel wanted to stop and explain that he didn’t know what this was about. They were innocent.

Of course, he remained silent though, watching with concern how his wife’s face turned red under the scrutiny. They were led through doors that Daniel barely noticed before and into a corridor that was barren and made him feel a little disoriented.

The agents stopped in a small office where a middle-aged woman with kind, brown eyes and long brown hair was waiting. Daniel and Eliza didn’t want to let their son go with her, no matter how gentle her demeanor was. They didn’t know this person.

Yet they noticed the way the agents looked at them. There was no getting out of this predicament. Any arguments they might want to make would be useless.

Eliza glared at the agents, her growing frustration and resentment unable to be hidden any longer. Then, she knelt down next to Adrian.

“You’re going to be spending a little time here,” she explained to her son gently. “Mommy and Daddy have to speak to these men privately for a little while. But it shouldn’t take long, and we’ll be back to pick you up soon.”

“But I don’t know her,” Adrian protested, looking away from his mother and at the floor. “I don’t want to stay here. I want to go with you.”

Daniel’s heart hurt at his son’s words. He didn’t want to leave him behind. He was just as confused as Adrian and Eliza were, yet somehow he felt like this was his fault.

“I know, baby,” Eliza said calmly. “I want you to come too. But you have to stay here for now. I promise, we will be back soon.”

Eliza and Daniel hugged Adrian, then they followed the agents out of the office, trying their hardest to ignore Adrian’s protests.

“Now can you tell us what this is about?” Daniel asked, his confusion and panic growing.

The agents didn’t answer him. Instead, they led the couple silently into an interrogation room, shocking them both. The room was slightly chilly with barren walls and a mental table with two chairs on one side facing two chairs on the other.

Everything about the room was intimidating with a bright light to put the focus directly on them. They couldn’t understand why they were here. Their pulses raced; their hearts beat faster.

“Please, take out your phones and hand over all of your luggage, laptops, and any other electronic devices,” Fletcher demanded.

“First, I want to know what this is about,” Daniel replied. “Don’t you need a warrant or something? We’re not going to just let you look through our things.”

Fletcher’s eyebrows raised as he crossed his arms over his chest.

“Don’t,” Eliza hissed at Daniel before Fletcher could respond. She looked up at the agents. “Of course, we’ll do as you say. We have nothing to hide.”

“Sure, we don’t have anything to hide,” Daniel insisted. “But I still want to know what this is about.”

“You know what this is about,” Fletcher replied in a threatening tone. “You may not want to admit to it in front of your wife, but she’s going to find out anyway. This will all be so much better if you start talking.”

Daniel resented the words as soon as Fletcher said them. He could feel Eliza’s worry and anger clamping onto him like a vine that wanted nothing more than to shake him and rage at him for putting her in this position.

“What is he talking about?” Eliza asked quietly.

“I promise you, I don’t know,” Daniel insisted, looking her right in her eyes. “I genuinely don’t know what this is about.”

“So, you’re going to claim that you don’t have ties to a money laundering scheme?” Fletcher asked.

“What on earth do you mean?” Daniel replied. “Of course, I don’t! I make all of my money fairly and legitimately. My company is doing fantastic. There’s simply no need for me to be part of a money laundering scheme, not that I would get involved with anything like that regardless.”

“I’m not sure that I believe you,” Fletcher said, the shadows creeping in around them like monsters read to attack. “And this is going to be tough on your regardless. We don’t take these kinds of crimes lightly.

“However, it will be easier if you cooperate. You might get out of this less damaged by the impact. Your family’s future is on the line here. Your freedom is on the line. So, I’d start talking if I were you.”

Daniel was at a loss though. He simply couldn’t give them the answers they were demanding. He had no idea what this was about. He wasn’t part of any money laundering scheme. He always kept things legitimate. He was responsible for his success through hard work alone and he loathed anyone saying otherwise.

They refused to listen to him though. The agents searched through their bags and phones. Though he hadn’t done anything illegal, it was still uncomfortable. There were still things on his phone that he wouldn’t want others to see. Not because they were illegal but because they were simply embarrassing.

Eliza’s face burned with embarrassment as they went through her feminine things alongside the lingerie she had brought as a surprise to mark the special occasion. Her anger grew the longer they stayed there and Daniel was terrified.

He was worried about the effect this would have on their already rocky marriage, their future, their family. Was he going to jail? He hadn’t done anything wrong but did that really matter? Would they be stranded in this country?

“We’ll let you go for now,” Fletcher decided four hours later after a brutal round of questioning. “But you may not leave the country. We still have an investigation to complete.”

“An investigation?” Daniel asked now outraged, embarrassed, confused, and worried. “What kind of investigation?”

Fletcher sighed, seemingly finally starting to believe that they didn’t know what was going on. “Your company was caught allowing a wallet that was sanctioned by OFAC to do a transaction on your web platform. That’s highly illegal and can get you into a lot of trouble.”

“I didn’t even know that happened,” Daniel admitted, finally hit with the reality of what had occurred and the consequences that would arise from that. “Can I really be charged for something I wasn’t aware of.”

“It’s your responsibility to be aware of things like this,” Fletcher explained. “As a businessman you can take steps to protect yourself from this sort of thing happening and you failed to do so.

“One of the best ways you can protect yourself from this kind of risk is by doing transaction monitoring and investigation. There are companies such as that are databases that help you identify sanctioned crypto wallets and sanctions APA. You can check a crypto address against their sanctions list for free and check a person or company against sanctions. This allows you to better track who you’re interacting with, making sure you’re not doing business with a sanctioned wallet.”

Daniel felt stupid at that. He realized he could’ve prevented all of this hassle, fear, embarrassment, and anger just by using the tools provided on a website. Based on the look on Eliza’s face, she was thinking the same thing as well.

“I promise I will do that in the future,” Daniel vowed. “I’ll be more careful. I’ll put the proper procedures into place. This will never happen again.”

“Make sure that you do,” Fletcher replied. “Because like I said, the investigation isn’t over. And next time you will be arrested.”

At that, Daniel and Eliza finally were permitted to leave. They picked up Adrian whose red cheeks were tear stained and eyes were clearly showing his exhaustion. The blissful, loving nature that once entangled them had fallen as the family trekked back through the airport to begin their vacation.

Months later, Daniel settled on agreeing to pay a huge fine to avoid prison time which took a toll on his marriage. What was rocky before was even more fragile under the weight of this money disaster that could’ve easily been avoided. Eliza lost a lot of trust in Daniel that day. But Daniel learned his lesson and was diligent in moving forward by protecting his business in the best way possible using to keep him out of future legal trouble.