Business 6 August 2018

Dennis Wafula

Arizona BTC trader gets jail time over money laundering charges

Thomas Mario Costanzo, a cryptocurrency trader in the U.S. state of Arizona, has been sentenced to serve more than three years in prison after he was found guilty of money laundering charges, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced.

Last March, Costanzo, also known as Morpheus Titania, was found guilty of five counts of money laundering and sentenced to 41 months in prison, with credit for time served in jail since his arrest in April 2017.

Investigators said 54-year-old Costanzo operated an illegal BTC exchange. Police began investigating Costanzo in 2014, after the man advertised his operations on a peer-to-peer Bitcoin exchange website. In his ad, Costanzo said he was willing to engage in cash transactions of up to $50,000.

Undercover federal agents, posing as a heroin and cocaine dealers, were able to infiltrate his operation and helped gather enough evidence to put Costanzo behind bars. Authorities said the agents approached Costanzo looking to convert his drug money into BTC. The agents told Costanzo they was involved in drug trafficking and wanted to exchange their cash for BTC, and the man provided them with the cryptocurrency. Investigators said Costanzo even encouraged the agents to exchange their cash for BTC as “it was a great way to limit their exposure to law enforcement,” according to the DOJ statement.

In the two years Costanzo managed to keep his operation running, he received $164,700 in cash, authorities said. This included $107,000 transaction on April 2017 from the undercover agents. During the trial, the prosecution produced evidence that showed Costanzo used BTC to purchase drugs. He also provided BTC to people who wanted to buy drugs from online dealers.

The government has also reached a resolution with a third party who provided Costanzo with BTC. According to reports, the third party, Dr.Steinmetz, agreed to forfeit 30.95149035 BTC and $54,000 in cash. The government agreed not to persecute Dr. Steinmetz for his crypto trading activities. In addition to forfeiting his BTC, Dr. Steinmentz was asked to only purchase or sell cryptocurrencies on exchanges recognized by Finacial Crimes Enforcement Network for the next two years.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins.

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