Anthony Murgio, 33, of Tampa, Florida, has been sentenced to five and a half years in prison for running a Bitcoin exchange connected to hackers. The exchange was used to launder more than $10 million worth of funds, authorities reported.
Both Murgio and Yuri Lebedev, 39, of St. John’s, Florida, operated Coin.mx through a fraudulent company called “Collectables Club.” According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the illegal Bitcoin exchange used the firm’s misleading name to open financial accounts at banks pretending to be a “members-only association of individuals who discussed, bought, and sold collectible items and memorabilia.” Murgio and Lebedev, along with other co-conspirators, violated bank and credit card company rules and regulations by “deliberately misidentifying and miscoding Coin.mx customers’ credit and debit card transactions.”
“Lies conceived and deployed by Murgio permeated every aspect of Coin.mx’s operation, including its use of front companies, like Collectables Club and Currency Enthusiasts, to try to conceal the illicit nature of the operation,” the Department of Justice stated in its sentencing submission.
On January 9, Murgio pled guilty to three counts regarding operating Coin.mx, which processed over $10 million worth of illegal Bitcoin transactions. Murgio ran the Bitcoin exchange between October 2013 and July 2015 for Gery Shalon, 33, an Israeli citizen who was responsible for hacking at least nine companies, including JPMorgan Chase, E-Trade Financial Corporation and Dow Jones. Coin.mx sold bitcoins that came from illegal online transactions, such as victim payments to ransomware attackers who sought to launder the cryptocurrencies clean.
“I screwed up badly and made serious mistakes and misjudgments,” Murgio said, showing remorse, to U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan at his sentencing.
Shalon, along with Ziv Orenstein, 42, compromised data on approximately 76 million household customers and 7 million businesses by hacking the nine companies. U.S. officials described their operation as a “diversified criminal conglomerate” responsible for the largest theft of valuable information from a U.S. bank. The compromised data included the names of customers, along with email addresses and phone numbers. Authorities collected evidence stating that Murgio exchanged cash for the bitcoins of Shalon’s criminal gang. Israeli police arrested Shalon and Orenstein in July 2015, and they were extradited to the United States in June 2016. Both are facing serious charges, including aggravated identity theft, wire fraud and money laundering.
“Mr. Murgio led an effort based on ambition and greed,” and constructed on a “pyramid of lies,” Judge Nathan said during the sentencing hearing at the Manhattan federal court.
On March 17, a Manhattan jury found Lebedev and his co-conspirator Trevon Gross, 52, of New Jersey, guilty of charges connected to a bribery scheme in an attempt to hide the illegal activities of Coin.mx from financial institutes and regulators. Both of the defendants are facing a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. Judge Nathan scheduled the sentencing hearing of Lebedev and Gross for July 20, 2017.
Murgio’s father, Michael Murgio, 66, was also involved in the Coin.mx case. In October, the father plead guilty to “making a false statement to the National Credit Union Administration on behalf of his son.” By making a plea deal, Michael Murgio managed to avoid additional charges in the case, including “conspiracy to make corrupt payments with intent to influence an officer of a financial institution and making corrupt payments.” Judge Nathan sentenced the elder Murgio to one year of probation along with a $12,000 fine.
The FBI arrested both Lebedev and Murgio on July 23, 2015, for “running an unlicensed bitcoin exchange with the goal of helping individuals launder money.”
Despite the prosecution’s request for 10 to 12 years and seven months behind bars, the Manhattan federal court sentenced Murgio to five and a half years in prison. According to Reuters, Judge Nathan considered Murgio’s “generosity to friends and support to his family” and imposed a prison sentence half as long as the prosecutor recommended.
Judge Nathan has scheduled a hearing on September 1 to decide on the amount of fines, forfeiture and restitution Murgio has to pay to the state. The operator of the illegal Bitcoin exchange remains free on bail.
Benjamin Vitáris is a Bitcoin enthusiast who currently studies marketing at the Budapest Business School. He regularly writes about various topics, including the dark web, cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology.