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Florida Men Face Charges from Bitcoin Transactions

Prosecutors charged two Florida men for allegedly laundering cash using bitcoins, a virtual currency. The defense aims to show state law does not apply to bitcoins.

Currently valued around $700 per coin, bitcoins are digital currency. While other alternative currencies exist, bitcoin is the best known at present. Purveyors seek to legitimatize bitcoin, which is better known for its use in criminal dealings on the Deep Web.

The facts alleged in this closely watched Florida case include the following:

  • Michell Abner Espinoza and Pascal Reid were charged in early February for engaging in unlicensed money-servicing in Florida.

  • After making an initial transaction with an undercover officer, Mr. Espinoza agreed to convert $300,000 into bitcoins. When meeting in-person to finalize the money transfer, Mr. Espinoza was arrested and charged under antilaundering statutes.

  • In a similar transaction, Mr. Reid agreed to convert $30,000 into bitcoins for an undercover agent.

  • In both cases, undercover officers told Mr. Espinoza and Mr. Reid the purpose of the money transfer was to engage in credit card fraud.

Under Florida law, vendors who wish to engage in money-servicing must register with the state. Neither defendant was registered. Defense counsel for Mr. Reid has countered that the language of the Florida statutes excludes and was never intended to cover bitcoins.

The popularity and credibility of bitcoins continues to rise and fall along with their value. The anonymity of bitcoin transactions make them popular for criminal use, yet hampers acceptance of the currency by legitimate vendors or consumers.

For help facing charges of money laundering or another criminal offense in Florida, consult an experienced defense attorney.

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