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LocalBitcoins Trader Charged for Running Unlicensed Bitcoin Exchange

Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:01 PM
Francisco Memoria
Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:01 PM

n indictment published by Detroit TV news service WD-IV  reveals that a 52-year-old Michigan man, Bradley Anthony Stetkiw, was recently charged with running an unlicensed money transmitting business after selling nearly $150,000 worth of bitcoin between 2013 and 2015, out of which over $56,000 were to law enforcement agents.

The indictment reveals that Stetkiw went by the name “SaltandPepper” on peer-to-peer exchange LocalBitcoins and that he had a number of positive reviews on his profile. He advertised his services by stating that he was the most reliable and honest trader in Oakland County, and arranged to meet customers at a Tim Hortons restaurant, in Bloomfield.

Notably, the document filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan shows that out of the nearly $150,000 Stetkiw traded, over $56,000 were sold to federal agents over the course of six meetings.

Due to the traded volume, Stetkiw should have been registered as a Money Service Business with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), and should develop and maintain an effective Anti-Money Laundering (AML) program. After seeing he didn’t authorities went after him and arranged meetings that would lead to his arrest. The document reads:

“Operating under the user name ‘SaltandPepper,’ Stetkiw bought, sold and brokered deals for hundreds of thousands of dollars in bitcoins while failing to comply with the money transmitting business registration requirements set fort in Title 31, United States Code, Section 5330.”

Stetkiew’s Meetings with Agents

Undercover agents purchased over 126 BTC (now worth about $778,000) from Stetkiw over six meetings, that led to a total of 26 bitcoin transactions. Stetkiew, according to the indictment , also brokered a deal between authorities and an out-of-state seller that subsequently sold agents $35,000 as an unlicensed money remitter.

In the meetings, Stetkiw revealed that he would sell a maximum of $2,500 per person as a limit he set “trying to make things comfortable,” and told agents that a lot of LocalBitcoins traders have been getting arrested. Agents asked if buying bitcoins was considered money laundering, and Stetkiw clarified that it was if the transacted amount crossed a certain value. He added that he didn’t know what that value was, as “the law varies everywhere.”

Later on, Stetkiw told agents not to tell him what they were doing with the bitcoins they were purchasing, as he told them “if it’s something bad, I can’t sell it to you.” Agents replied that their versions of bad could be different, so Stetkiw just asked them not to reveal anything about it.

Notably, the LocalBitcoins trader also suggested agents hide their cash while riding around with it, as it could be seized by police if they couldn’t account for it. When agents attempted to get him to reveal his method of hiding money, he replied: “I’ve got a way of doing it, I’m not going to tell you how.”

The indictment also points out that besides being involved in unlicensed money transmissions, he also sent at least 0.6766 BTC to the now-defunct dark web market Alpha Bay.

Featured image from Shutterstock.