Women in Crypto Q&A: Callie Brutcher Brings FBI Experience to Blockchain

Callie Brutcher says her previous experience at the FBI focusing on ransomware and darknet narcotics helped her shape her current work as a blockchain intelligence analyst on the Threat Intelligence team at blockchain intelligence company TRM Labs. Brutcher said one of the things she admires about the crypto space is “the human impact” and how she can help victims of fraud. She talked to us about her experience, her views on where crypto is going and what needs to change in the space, such as demystifying it. Brutcher also addressed how — coming from the law enforcement world — working in a male-dominated environment is “certainly not new to me,” and the need in the industry for more DEI initiatives. 

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Can you explain what you’re doing at TRM? And what you were doing at the FBI and how that ties into your current role?

CB: I’m a blockchain intelligence analyst on the Threat Intelligence team at TRM Labs. That means I establish partnerships with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to build out the best attribution for our platform as well as conduct on-chain investigations of illicit cryptocurrency transactions involved in ransomware and business email compromise incidents.

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Prior to joining TRM, I spent six years with the FBI as a tactical analyst focusing on ransomware, darknet narcotics and financial fraud investigations. I was also a member of the evidence response team, so having working knowledge of cryptocurrency, seed phrases and cold storage wallets became a valuable skill set during the execution of search warrants.

The lessons I learned in the FBI shaped my path toward TRM Labs. In the bureau, I learned about the nuances of tracing cryptocurrency, how to run an investigation from start to finish, and the global impact of cryptocurrency. Now as an analyst at TRM, I have blended the teachings from my years of public service with everything I have learned as a blockchain analyst to better serve our customers and partners in a versatile way.

What brought you to crypto?

CB: I got my start in crypto in 2019, when I moved to a squad investigating illicit darknet marketplaces. Within my first couple months I started learning about the different cryptocurrencies, attended a conference in California and took my first training on cryptocurrency tracing. At the time, working crypto-related investigations at the field office level was more of a collateral duty versus a full-time job. However, because there were so few of us, it created opportunities to work on a variety of threats and support squads you may otherwise never get to interact with in an official capacity. For a long time, I believed I would retire from a career in law enforcement. I never anticipated my experiences taking me on this newest career adventure, but I am so grateful to land where I did.

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What excites you about the space?

CB: I love how the landscape of cryptocurrency is still so young and constantly changing. In the next five, 10, 20 years, there will be opportunities both professionally and personally that haven’t even been thought of yet. There is something exciting about getting in on the ground floor of something that has such a global impact. Not only from a technological standpoint but in regards to the inevitable human impact. You will hear me mention the human impact more than once, because I truly believe it’s one of the most important yet under-represented pieces of the crypto space.

During my years in law enforcement, one of the most fulfilling aspects of the job was when I was able to successfully help victims. Whether I was part of the team that recovered someone’s stolen life savings or executed a search warrant on bad actors who were going to continue victimizing members of the community, that mission and drive was a huge part of what motivated me every day. I love that at TRM I can continue that fight and continue helping victims around the world.

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What do you think should change in the space?

CB: Cryptocurrency as a whole has a reputation for being a complex and mysterious subject. There is some truth to that belief, but I think our community can do a better job of explaining the crypto ecosystem in a way that is more relatable to individuals on the outside looking in. Cryptocurrency has such a vast human impact, and that will continue to grow as more policies are put in place and the use of cryptocurrency for day-to-day transactions becomes more widely accepted. If the subject matter can be shared in a more consumable form, not only will the general public adapt to its use quicker, they will also be able to better protect themselves and their families by having a more comprehensive understanding of how it works. TRM is working hard to create a safer financial system for billions of people, because the day of mainstream crypto is coming, and it will be here before we know it.

Can you talk about how the industry is male-dominated and what could be done to change this? 

CB: First, I am really proud of the team we are building at TRM. We have a team of extraordinary women across the company — from former law enforcement agents to lawyers, data scientists to engineers and investigators. In fact, a few months ago we did a TRM Talks with some of the best crypto investigators in the world — and they were all extraordinary female investigators. We are really intentional about hiring true subject matter experts at TRM but also laser focused on building a diverse team.

The idea of working in a male-dominated environment is certainly not new to me. Law enforcement has always been traditionally male dominated. And, as a woman who is also a member of the LGBTQ+ population, I find that I have come to expect being a minority in most situations. Honestly, I have probably not focused on it enough, but the reality is that it’s something we really need to change and I know that it is something we are focused on at TRM. There is a need in our industry for DEI initiatives and offering business resource groups that focus on minority employees within their organization. Metrics have shown having such groups attract talent outside of your company because candidates see they not only have a place within the organization, but also a seat at the table.

Why do you think crypto matters?

CB: I believe cryptocurrency and blockchain technology have so much untapped potential that will significantly impact many different sectors of our economy and economies around the world. As processes are overhauled in the distribution industry using blockchain technology, and smart contracts become standard practice when creating legally binding contracts, new use cases will continue to materialize as time goes on. Individuals, companies and even governments will make determinations on why crypto matters to fit their specific wants and needs. As cryptocurrency and blockchain technology continue to evolve, so will those wants and needs. The beauty of it is: All of those reasons are valid.

Crypto truly has the ability to impact people, places and cultures all around the world. A continued effort for industry professionals to standardize best practices, collaborate through successes and allocate resources will ensure we have proactive measures in place as the technological evolution and human impact develops.

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.
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