A federal judge sentenced Anthony Murgio of Florida to five and a half years in prison after he pleaded guilty to operating an illegal bitcoin exchange suspected of laundering money, according to Reuters. A hearing of forfeiture and restitution has been set for Sept. 1.
Murgio, 33, pleaded guilty in January to bank fraud and operating an unlicensed money laundering business. The sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan was half as long as prosecutors asked for.
Murgio and his co-conspirators were charged with processing millions of dollars into bitcoin from 2013 to 2015 through Coin.mx, an illegal bitcoin exchange. Police arrested Murgio and a co-conspirator in 2015.
Procesutors said Coin.mx did a lot of bitcoin transactions for victims of ransomware who are often required to pay a ransom in bitcoin to unlock their computers.
Murgio and his co-conspirators were also involved in a scheme to take control of a New Jersey credit union in 2014 to shield their activities. Judge Nathan said Murgio led an effort based on greed and ambition that was built on a “pyramid of lies.” When Murgio expressed regret for his crime, the judge said it was genuine. Murgio said he is now wiser than when the case began and he was sorry for the damage he caused.
Nathan noted Murgio’s generosity to friends and support to his family in deciding to reduce the term from the 10 to 12 and a half years that prosecutors recommended. Brian Klein, Murgio’s lawyer, said he was glad about the reduced sentence.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Eun Choi said Murgio exploited the desperation of ransomware victims. Murgio and others in 2014 acquired an organization called Helping Other People Excel Federal Credit Union of Jackson, N.J. and bribed its pastor, Trevon Gross, to evade scrutiny of Coin.mx, prosecutors said.
Michael Murgio, Anthony’s father, pleaded guilty in October to an obstruction charge connected to the credit union.
A Manhattan jury convicted Yuri Lebedev, a Florida software engineer, and pastor Gross in scheming to shield Coin.mx’s activities from regulators and banks. They have not yet been sentenced.
Prosecutors said Gery Shalon, an Israeli who pleaded not guilty after being extradited from Israel last June, owned Coin.mx. Prosecutors also said Shalon oversaw the 2014 JP Morgan hacking scheme that stole information from more than 100 million people.
Neither Murgio was charged in the hacking case, in which records of more than 83 million accounts were breached, including JPMorgan. The massive bank hack marked one of the biggest thefts of customer data ever.