Two Florida men are facing some serious felony charges that intersect both Bitcoin and the money transfer business.
According to federal authorities, Anthony R. Murgio and Yuri Lebedev never bothered to get a Money Services Business license for Coin.mx, a Bitcoin exchange. The FBI’s statement on the matter calls Coin.mx / Collectables Club a “phony front business” and mentions that the men also utilized a federal credit union that they bought solely for the purpose of washing dirty money.
In doing so, they knowingly exchanged cash for people whom they believed may be engaging in criminal activity. MURGIO and his co-conspirators have also knowingly exchanged cash for Bitcoins for victims of “ransomware” attacks, that is, cyberattacks in which criminals (here, distributors of the ransomware known as “Cryptowall”) electronically block access to a victim’s computer system until a sum of “ransom” money, typically in Bitcoins, is paid to them. In doing so, MURGIO, and his co-conspirators knowingly enabled the criminals responsible for those attacks to receive the proceeds of their crimes, yet, in violation of federal anti-money laundering laws, MURGIO never filed any suspicious activity reports regarding any of the transactions.
It goes on to allege that they willfully hid their activities from the various other legacy financial institutions by pretending that instead of exchanging Bitcoins for fiat currencies, they were helping facilitate the trade of collectible items. Eventually the National Credit Union Association caught on to their credit union scheme, which had involved stocking the board of directors with employees of Coin.mx, and put a stop to their suspicious activities.
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To make an already eyebrow-raising story even crazier, Murgio then allegedly continued without modification, finding new ways to move his funds around (although not simply using Bitcoin, which is mystifying). Before prosecution efforts began, the pair had moved hundreds of thousands of dollars to foreign countries, some of which have banking secrecy laws that may shelter the funds.
Each is facing up to ten years in prison if convicted, on a single charge of operating an unlicensed money transfer business and conspiracy thereof (two separate charges).
Images from Shutterstock and Coin.mx.