Business

Erik Gibbs

US man running unlicensed crypto business via LocalBitcoins faces jail time

A man who ran a Bitcoin Core (BTC) operation through LocalBitcoins could possibly go to jail. According to a press release published on the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) website this past Monday, the individual pleaded guilty to operating an “unlicensed money transmitting business” through the site and is now looking at spending as much as five years behind bars.

Jacob Burrell Campos is accused of running an operation that sold “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in BTC to more than 1,000 clients in the U.S. from January 2015 to April 2016. Because of the amount, the DOJ categorized his activity as an unregistered cryptocurrency exchange and indicted him on charges.

The 21-year-old Campos would organize the sales by advertising on LocalBitcoins and then communicate with clients through text messages or encrypted email, prosecutors said. Payments were facilitated either in cash, ATM withdrawals or money exchange services such as MoneyGram.

Campos reportedly stored his fiat in Mexico through a precious metals dealer out of San Diego, Joseph Castillo. Castillo has already pleaded guilty to filing false tax returns and is expected to be sentenced on December 13.

As an exchange, Campos was required to register with the U.S. financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a division of the U.S. Department of Treasury. He never fulfilled the requirement, nor did he conduct Know-Your-Customer checks as required by law, federal authorities said.

According to U.S. attorney Adam Braverman, who was quoted in the press release, “Unlicensed money transmitting businesses, especially those operating at or near the border, pose a serious threat to the integrity of the US banking system, and provide an ‘open door’ for criminals to utilize such businesses to launder the proceeds of their illicit activities.”

Campos admitted to the activity and revealed that he had also had an account with an unidentified “U.S.-based, regulated” crypto exchange suspended over concerns of suspicious activity. He then moved his operation to an exchange based in Hong Kong, where he is believed to have purchased as much as $3.29 million in BTC between March 2015 and April 2017.

Campos also agreed to surrender $800,000 as part of his plea deal. He is expected to be sentenced on February 11, 2019.

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