A 22-year-old man has been sentenced to two years in prison for selling unlicensed bitcoins. He was operating a bitcoin exchange without registering with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network of the US Department of Treasury.
Jacob Burrell Campos, a US citizen and Mexico resident, has been held in custody without bail since August 2018. He pleaded guilty in October 2018, admitting that he employed no anti-money laundering measures and didn’t check up on details about his customers and where their money came from.
Burrell advertised his business on localbitcoins.com and often used encrypted apps to text his customers. He sold bitcoins at 5 percent above the usual exchange rate and received payments in cash, potentially making his service attractive to money-launderers.
Burrell claims to have started as a customer of a US-based, regulated bitcoin exchange, but saw his account shut down after a large volume of suspicious transactions raised red flags. He then turned to Bitfinex, an exchange in Hong Kong that is also being investigated by US authorities, before finally launching his own illegal exchange in 2016.
The US Justice Department has ruled that Burrell gave his clients anonymity and privacy and exchanged over $1 million in unregulated cash, potentially allowing criminals to launder cash without scrutiny.