Anthony R. Murgio and Yuri Lebedev of West Palm Beach Florida were arrested today for running an unlicensed bitcoin exchange with the goal of helping individuals launder money. The press release the FBI put out charges the men of operating this exchange through a “phony front-company and, at times, a federal credit union that Murgio acquired for purposes of the scheme.”
According to the FBI, “Since at least late 2014, Murgio, Lebedev, and their co-conspirators have knowingly operated Coin.mx, a bitcoin exchange service, in violation of federal anti-money laundering laws and regulations, including those requiring money services businesses like Coin.mx to meet registration and reporting requirements…”
The FBI has also charged that, “they knowingly exchanged cash for people who they believed may be engaging in criminal activity.” One particular form of criminal activity was exchanging cash for bitcoin for those that had been attacked by ransomware. When this occurs, a user’s computer is completely blocked until the “ransom” is paid. Bitcoin has become an easy way to make these payments due to its anonymous nature.
The government estimates that between October 2013 and January 2015, Coin.mx exchanged at least $1.8 million of bitcoin for tens of thousands of customers.
The two men have each been charged with one count of conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business and one count of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. Each of these charges can result in a maximum sentence of five years. Murgio, though, has also been charged with one count of money laundering due to hundreds of thousands of dollars sent to bank accounts in Cyprus, Hong Kong, and Europe. This charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.