US man charged with aiding in BTC laundering, overlooking human trafficking

BTC hasn’t proven useful for much. With small block sizes, slow transaction times and high fees, advocates for the digital asset have called it digital gold. As markets get crushed by world news and investor panic, that hasn’t proven true. The only usage most people have found is in criminal activity, but BTC fans have denied that’s the case. New charges against Kenneth Rhule, a LocalBitcoins seller, don’t help their case.

Rhule faces eight charges from U.S. Homeland Security for operating an unlicensed money transmitting business, and totally overlooking a potential case of human trafficking. In charges filed with the Washington State district court, Rhule’s charges include “conducting an unlicensed money transmitting business, five counts of laundering monetary instruments, and one count of conspiracy to produce and distribute marijuana.”

The investigation that caught Rhule had been running since April, 2018. Agents with Homeland Security had been looking for LocalBitcoins sellers who would help them launder large amounts of cash for BTC. The agents made very clear to Rhule that they came by the money from human trafficking, but he still sold them $140,000 worth of BTC.

“When completing these transactions, Rhule did not ask any ‘Know Your Customer’ information,” the complaint notes, violating money transmitting business regulations. They also accuse him of running an unlicensed marijuana business.

The charges Rhule faces have severe consequences. Rhule faces five years for operating the money transmitting business, 20 for helping launder funds, and up to 40 for distributing marijuana without a license.

It’s easy enough to nitpick the marijuana charge, depending on your political and moral views. Marijuana has been legalized in Washington State, but selling weed requires a license. This is very similar to liquor laws in the state.

The heart of the matter is, much like the businesses that promote BTC, Rhule didn’t care at all why his buyers needed BTC. Even explicitly being told that they hoped to launder funds that came from human trafficking didn’t deter him from conducting business with the agents, proving he had no qualms about illegal activity.

This is why money transmitting businesses are licensed and regulated, and why they must take active steps to understand their clientele, and prevent money laundering. Bitcoin SV (BSV) embraces these regulations as following the rule of law is the only way to becoming a respected, useful digital asset in the modern world. 

New to Bitcoin? Check out CoinGeek’s Bitcoin for Beginners section, the ultimate resource guide to learn more about Bitcoin—as originally envisioned by Satoshi Nakamoto—and blockchain.