An activist group launched a legal defense fund for accused Tornado Cash developers Alexey Pertsev and Roman Storm on Jan. 22.
Roman Storm endorsed the fundraiser, stating:
“2024 is the year that will define the rest of my life. Honestly, I’m scared. But also hopeful that this community cares with a passion. Please donate towards my legal defense.”
The DAO was also announced by Ameen Soleimani, who is associated with various Ethereum and cryptocurrency projects. Soleimani wrote:
” … Roman & Alexey are fighting for all of us. The outcomes of these trials will have far reaching consequences for ETH devs & users, especially those working on privacy tools.”
The fund is organized by a group called Free Pertsev & Storm. The group stated that the fundraiser will run from Jan. 22 to Feb. 22 and noted that the defendants’ legal fees would range between $90,000 and $100,000 per month. It added that the “upcoming months will be crucial in shaping their defense strategy.”
Donations are possible through three fundraising platforms. As of 11:00 p.m. UTC on Jan. 22, Free Pertsev & Storm’s fundraiser page on JuiceBoxDAO had attracted 23 ETH ($53,300) through 78 donations.
Additionally, the group’s GoFundMe fundraiser raised $14,745 through cash donations. Another website at WeWantJusticeDAO.org appears to be accepting donations as well, though it does not report the raised amount publicly.
The U.S. is taking action against coin mixers
The U.S. initially took action against Tornado Cash in August 2022 as the Treasury blacklisted various on-chain crypto addresses linked to the service.
About one year later, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) began to pursue charges against the platform’s developers. The agency charged Storm over his role in developing the coin mixer Tornado Cash in August 2023, alleging conspiracy charges around money laundering, sanctions violations, and the operation of an unlicensed money-transmitting business. The DOJ simultaneously charged another individual, Roman Semenov, who remains at large.
Alexey Pertsev was arrested in the Netherlands in August 2022, facing similar money laundering charges. He does not currently face charges in the U.S. but has been designated by the Treasury for his role in Tornado Cash.
U.S. authorities maintain that Tornado Cash and other coin mixers are used in money laundering and by cybercrime groups, including North Korea’s Lazarus Group. Crypto community members have largely countered this and asserted that coin mixers have legitimate privacy applications for general users.
Incidentally, the DeFi Education Fund submitted a comment opposing a federal proposal to treat coinmixers as a special money laundering concern.