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The long-running saga of the now-defunct Florida bitcoin exchange Coin.mx saw the trial began yesterday. Prosecutors have accused a New Jersey pastor of accepting bribes including a $150,000 church donation.
According to a report in Reuters, Assistant U.S. Attorney Won Shin told jurors that Florida programmer Yuri Lebedev – a software developer at Coin.mx – schemed with others to bribe Trevon Gross, a pastor who headed a federal credit union housed in his New Jersey-based church. Lebedev was arrested alongside Anthony R. Murgio, the operator of the unlicensed bitcoin exchange in mid-2015.
Coin.mx is accussed of running through a front called “Collectables Club”, to trick banks into believing it was a memorabilia club for stamps and sports collectibles, while processing and converting millions of dollars into bitcoin, without a ‘money services business’ license to operate with.
The prosecutors allege that the bribes were offered as a means to gain access to the credit union, in order to escape the scrutiny of banks skeptical of processing millions in individuals’ payments toward virtual currency transactions.
Shin reportedly stated:
The bribes and lies had a simple, shared purpose. For the defendants Lebedev and Gross and their co-conspirators to make money.
The defense of Lebedev and Gross argued that their clients did no wrong and were instead manipulated by Anthony Murgio, blaming the operator for all that transpired with the unlicensed bitcoin exchange.
Gross’ lawyer argued that he was misled by Murgio into believing that Coin.mx was a memorabilia club. “He didn’t know anything about what they were up to,” the lawyer stated, claiming that the $150,000 ‘donation’ to the church did not benefit the pastor in a personal capacity. Gross faces one count of corruptly accepting payments as an officer of a financial institution, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
“Yuri was in the wrong place, at the wrong time with the wrong people,” said Lebedev’s lawyer.
In an allegedly multi-layered criminal enterprise, Coin.mx is said to be owned by an Israeli national Grey Shalon, who is accused of masterminding a sweeping cybersecurity scheme which led to a number of breaches including that of JPMorgan Chase, among the largest banks in the United States. The 2014 breach of JP Morgan Chase & Co exposed over 83 million accounts.
Murgio, Lebedev and Gross are not accused of playing any part in the hacking of JP Morgan. Earlier this year, Anthony Murgio plead guilty to operating an unlicensed money transfer business in the form of a bitcoin exchange.
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