Innovators,  People

Blockchain Intelligence Group Fights Fraud in Earthquake Relief

Crypto watchdog ensures that donor money reaches legit charities

In Gaziantep, Türkiye, hundreds of buildings collapsed after the earthquake, February 7, 2023. (Photo: Begum Iman; © European Union, 2023/Flickr Creative Commons)

The scale of the disaster in the wake of last week’s earthquake is almost impossible to describe. For 33,000 souls to vanish from the earth in the space of a few minutes can only be conceptualized by picturing it as metaphor—“it’s like eleven 9-11s” or “it’s like the disappearance of everybody at a Yankees playoff game.” In other words, there are no words.

In the modern world, where there’s a disaster, there’s money. Generous citizens from around the globe have stepped up to donate to crisis relief, especially needed since the quake affected parts of the globe already traumatized by war and terrorism. It’s been inspiring to watch—one anonymous donor from Pakistan walked into Turkey’s embassy in the US and donated $30 million to earthquake relief.

Press play to hear a narrated version of this story, presented by AudioHopper.

Less inspiring is another modern truism. Where there is money there is fraud.

The Blockchain Intelligence Group has pulled together a list of vetted addresses for those looking to ensure that crypto donations can be traced and reach their intended recipients.

Bill Callahan, Director of Government & Strategic Affairs at Blockchain Intelligence Group. (LinkenIn)

Cryptocurrency can actually be a rather efficient way to help. After all, one of the founding justifications for crypto was borderless transfer of value without regard to currency fluctuations or, in the case at least of the Syria portion, a banking system that has been in collapse for the duration of a ten-year Civil War. Predictably, however, bad actors have sprung up in a particularly heartless effort to insert themselves between generous donors and suffering recipients.

The Blockchain intelligence group, led by Director of government and strategic affairs Bill Callahan, has assembled an investigation and Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) team to vet approved recipients and track the donations. They’ve documented all of the addresses in QLUE, the law enforcement tool that allows financial investigators to sniff out and preserve evidence of crypto fraud.

Callahan told Modern Consensus, “Blockchain Intelligence Group believes in catching criminals and protecting crypto users. We work with banks, law enforcement and independent investigators to protect assets and investigate fraud using crypto.”

Callahan has a fitting pedigree for this assignment.

According to his resume, he spent 26 years at various roles in the U.S. Department of Justice, including two decades at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as the Special Agent in Charge of the St. Louis Division. “I held numerous positions, primarily centering on financial investigations of some of the largest narcotic and money laundering transnational criminal organizations, using trade-based money laundering, hawala, bulk cash smuggling, and cryptocurrency to launder their ill-gotten gains.”

In other words, he’s seen his fair share of financial shenanigans.

The list of charities are third parties, unaffiliated with Blockchain Intelligence Group. Each has its own mission and financial goals. A few of them are listed here, but it’s important to note the Blockchain Intelligence Group isn’t necessarily vetting these charities or giving its seal of approval to the charities’ mission. Rather, they ensure that the money reaches the intended recipient.

“The investigation team at Blockchain Intelligence Group saw it as our responsibility to the industry to collate a list of real charities,” Callahan told Modern Consensus. That will “help more funding get to the citizens of Turkey and Syria who need it most.”

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Ken Kurson is the founder of Modern Consensus. Read more about Ken Kurson at