US Man Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering Charges Involving $13M in Bitcoin

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A California man entered into an objection deal with US authorities after he was charged with operating an unlicensed company that exchanged millions of dollars in Bitcoin for cash.

49-year-old Hugo Mejia pleaded guilty to an unlicensed money transfer business and money laundering, according to a press release from the US Department of Justice on Friday.

From May 2018 to September 2020, Mejia ran a digital currency business that exchanged cryptocurrency for cash and received commissions for transactions made on its platform.

Mejia was unable to register his company with the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network – an agency of the Treasury Department that aims to protect against financial crime through data collection and analysis.

During the 28 month period, Mejia exchanged approximately $ 13 million and formed other companies such as The HODL Group LLC and Worldwide Communications LLC to hide the true nature of its illegal activities.

His business was advertised online and orally while communicating with potential customers and meeting them in coffee shops via encrypted messaging services.

Mejia’s undoing came through a stabbing operation where a person who works with law enforcement and poses as a customer met him at a coffee shop and agreed to buy 14,273 BTC for over $ 82,000 plus fees. During the stab operation, Mejia had made five bitcoin-to-cash transactions for $ 250,000.

Since pleading guilty, the San Bernadino County man has given up on all assets resulting from his illegal activity, including over $ 230,000 in cash, various cryptocurrencies, and silver coins and bars.

Mejia is expected to be tried in a US district court in March and faces a maximum sentence of 25 years behind bars in federal prison.