A U.S. District Court judge ruled Monday that:
“Wealth exchanged on the peer-to-peer Bitcoin network constitutes “funds” for the purpose of federal criminal law.”
What this means for Anthony Murgio is that he can be tried on charges that he was in violation of federal law by operating his unlicensed monetary transit business. In a wider scope, it could mean a normal financial regulation for bitcoin, which would result in a more widespread, mainstream usage.
Judge Alison Nathan of the Southern District of New York rejected Murgio’s claim that he was dealing in bitcoin, not actual “funds”. A term the criminal statute does not define.
“Dictionaries, courts, and the statute’s legislative history all point to the same conclusion: bitcoins are funds,” Judge Nathan stated.
Murgio operated Coin.mx, which at the time was a popular bitcoin exchange that even I had used. Coin.mx was owned by Gery Shalon. Shalon and two others are being charged with running a computer hacking and fraud scheme that targeted JP Morgan, Chase & Co., and other companies that resulted in the exposure of over 100 million people’s personal data.
The judge supported her ruling with recent case law, but financial regulators are still unsure of bitcoin, and other crypto-currencies.
The IRS treats bitcoin as property, while the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network handles bitcoin as currency.
Bitcoin user and open-source technologist Ben Lloyd Pearson stated that he, “hopes the latest decision will help to cut through the legal gray areas that can discourage wider cryptocurrency adoption.”
“One of the biggest issues with business is that you don’t want to deal with a lot of uncertainties,” Pearson said.
July of this year, a Judge in Florida ruled that Bitcoin was in fact not money, because it couldn’t be hidden under a mattress like cash and gold bars. Because of this, money-laundering charges, under Florida law, were thrown out.
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