Two Florida men charged with money laundering for selling bitcoins

“Miami Beach PD and the local office of the United States Secret Service’s Electronic Crimes Task Force sought out “individuals engaged in high volume Bitcoin activity.”

By RT –

Two Florida men are in trouble with the law after being arrested last week for agreeing to sell thousands of dollars’ worth of bitcoins to undercover agents.

Criminal charges were announced on Thursday against 30-year-old Michell Abner Espinoza of Miami Beach and Pascal Reid, 29, a Canadian citizen who was living in the town of Miramar when he was apprehended last week.

According to two arrest affidavits out of the Miami Beach Police Department, both men had independently sold hundreds of dollars’ worth of the digital cryptocurrency to undercover officers since last December, but were only taken into custody on Thursday, February 6 after they each agreed to make in-person transactions involving the transfer of thousands of dollars’ worth of bitcoins.

Both men have each been charged with one count of operating an unlicensed money service business, laundering between $300 and $20,000, and laundering currency valued at more than $20,000.

Brian Krebs, a security researcher and journalist who first broke the story, said the arrests likely mark the first time that state law has been used by investigators to go after individuals linked to the alternative currency, which exists only in a digital realm and allows for near-perfect anonymity.

The “arrests may be the first state prosecutions involving the use of Bitcoins in money laundering operations,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle admitted in a statement issued after the arrests.

Fernandez Rundle said that in both cases, undercover officers working for the Miami Beach PD and the local office of the United States Secret Service’s Electronic Crimes Task Force sought out “individuals engaged in high volume Bitcoin activity.” According to the affidavits, however, both Espinoza and Reid made merely pennies on the dollar by offering curious investors a unique way of purchasing bitcoin in person for a slight fee.

Investigators reportedly set their sights on Espinoza and Reid after coming across their profiles on localbitcoins.com, a website where individuals can arrange to meet face-to-face with other bitcoin enthusiasts in order to buy and sell the cryptocurrency, currently valued at just under $700 each.

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