Bitcoin exchange operator pleads guilty to multiple charges in Coin.mx case

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The operator of the now-disgraced bitcoin exchange Coin.mx has pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court to multiple charges in relation to running the service.

Anthony Murgio, 33, of Tampa, Florida, was arrested in July 2015 on charges of breaching federal anti-money laundering laws and regulations, as well as on the allegation that he enabled criminal activity by exchanging cash for bitcoins for victims of ransomware attacks.

While that would seem fairly typical for a charge sheet against someone running an illegal bitcoin exchange, Murgio, along with his co-accused Yuri Lebedev, was also alleged to have illegally obtained control of the Helping Other People Excel Federal Credit Union. The U.S. Attorney in Manhattan said they channeled funds from Coin.mx through bribery, including bribing Trevon Gross, a pastor and former chairman of the credit union.

Their scheming finally came undone when greed got the better of them. A serious increase in funds flowing through the credit union came to the attention of the National Credit Union Administration, which then alerted authorities that something untoward was occurring.

Murgio pleaded guilty to three counts, including conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business and conspiracy to commit bank fraud as part of a plea agreement in which he agrees not to appeal any prison sentence of less than 12½ years in prison, according to Reuters.

Murgio’s attorney Brian Klein confirmed the plea, telling Coindesk via email: “By pleading guilty, Anthony Murgio accepts full responsibility for his conduct. Today, he was able to start the process of putting what happened behind him. In connection with his sentencing, we look forward to letting the judge know the many positive things about Anthony.”

The case is also notable for Murgio’s attempts to have the charges dismissed by arguing that bitcoin was not a currency for the purposes of federal law prohibiting the operation of unlicensed money transmitting businesses.

A U.S. District Court judge ruled against the motion in September, finding that bitcoin qualified as the act describes “funds” versus fiat money specifically. The judge also said that because bitcoins can be accepted as a payment for goods and services or bought directly from an exchange with a bank account, they therefore function as currency.

Image credit: Coinmx