California Man Arrested for Laundering $13 Million through Cryptocurrencies

California Man Arrested for Laundering $13 Million through Cryptocurrencies

A California resident is accused of operating an unlicensed exchange of BTC and other crypto assets, as well as money laundering. He faces up to 25 years in prison.

According to
a press release from the US Department of Justice, Hugo Mejia, a resident of Ontario in southern California, operated a cryptocurrency exchange from May 2018 to September 2020. During this period, $13 million worth of digital assets were exchanged on the platform.

The owner of the service did not register it in the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). To hide his illegal activities, Mejia opened firms called Worldwide Secure Communications LLC, World Secure Data, and The HODL Group LLC. Mejia advertised his business on the Internet, and also met with potential customers in person in a cafe or communicated with them through encrypted messaging services.

From May 2019 to March 2020, Mejia met several times with a fake “client” who worked with law enforcement agencies. He told the owner of the site that he was working with a meth buyer in Australia who bought the drugs every six weeks and resold them at times more expensive. This client, who worked with the police, agreed to exchange $82,000 for 14,273 BTC. In total, there were five bitcoin transactions worth more than $250,000.

The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) participated in the investigation. After charging the owner of the site, he pleaded guilty and gave up all illegally obtained assets. During the search, silver bars and coins, various cryptocurrencies worth about $95,587 and $230,000 in cash were seized. Mejia will appear in U.S. Federal District Court in March. A California resident faces up to 25 years in prison.

Recall that in November, the founders of the cryptocurrency payment operator Payza were also arrested for money laundering using cryptocurrencies. In addition, a few weeks ago, the owner of the cryptocurrency exchange RG Coins was sentenced to ten years in prison for laundering $5 million through crypto assets.