A New York court today handed a 5 1/2 year prison sentence to the operator of bitcoin exchange Coin.mx. The unlicensed exchange was linked to a data breach at JPMorgan Chase & Co., and also allegedly laundered money for hackers.
According to a Reuters report, Anthony Murgio, 33, of Tampa, Florida, pleaded guilty in January to charges of conspiracy, bank fraud and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. However the sentence was only half what prosecutors had asked for.
They alleged Coin.mx processed millions of dollars worth of bitcoin transactions from 2013-2015. In September 2016, the case made headlines after a Manhattan federal judge declared bitcoin to be money in the law’s eyes.
That declaration was used to proceed with Murgio’s trial. A Florida judge last July dismissed similar money laundering charges against Michell Espinoza (involving far small amounts) when she declared Bitcoin is not money.
Other Participants and Coin.mx’s Illegal Activities
Florida software engineer Yuri Lebedev and New York pastor Trevon Gross also faced trial in February over Coin.mx’s activities. Both were convicted and will be sentenced in July.
The list of illegal activities is long and varied. These included deceiving financial institutions into processing payments for Coin.mx through a front called “Collectables Club”.
Additionally, Lebedev and Murgio bribed the HOPE Cathedral $150,000 USD with Gross’ help in an attempt to take over a New Jersey Credit Union the church ran.
Coin.mx owner, Israeli Gery Shalon, allegedly participated in a series of hacks with Maryland-born Joshua Samuel Aaron, that stole over 100 million personal records. This led to various other investment “pumping” schemes with another Israeli, Ziv Orenstein.
Shalon is yet to face trial and reportedly will plead not guilty.
Profited From Ransomware Victims
Prosecutors in Murgio’s case also said Coin.mx had processed fiat-to-bitcoin exchanges for victims of ransomware attacks. However the same could be said for any bitcoin exchange, regulated or not.
One prosecutor even used these deals to further accuse Murgio, saying “He exploited their desperation to personally profit from them.”
Did Murgio get the sentence he deserved? Tell us your opinions in the comments below.
Images via New York Times, Pixabay