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Florida Court Issues Ruling on Tech Money Laundering Case

Florida law sets out a wide variety of white collar crimes that can be committed using the Internet and technology. However, one court in Florida recently ruled that a man should not be prosecuted for the offense of money laundering for transmitting the virtual currency called Bitcoins.

A man had allegedly transmitted 1,500 Bitcoins to undercover police detectives knowing that they planned to use the Bitcoins to purchase credit card numbers that had been stolen. Prosecutors charged him with the offense of money laundering, which includes a financial transaction with the intent to promote further unlawful activity. The defense argued the charges should be dismissed because a financial transaction requires money and Bitcoins are not actual money.

Bitcoins are digital assets used for peer-to-peer online payments. Bitcoins have no monetary value outside of the world of the Internet and, while considered to be property, the units have been called a “decentralized virtual currency” by the Department of the Treasury. The defense argued that because Bitcoins are not money, no money laundering could have occurred and there were not enough supporting facts to continue pursuing felony charges.

The prosecutor admitted this was the first case in state court that involved Bitcoins as the basis for money laundering charges. She also argued that so-called “cyber-criminals” are simply ahead of the authorities in coming up with new ways to launder criminal funds and, therefore, they should be charged.

Under the definitions in the Florida money laundering statute, “monetary instruments” means any of the following:

  • Coins or currency of the US or another country;
  • Personal checks;
  • Travelers’ checks;
  • Money orders;
  • Bank checks;
  • Investment securities in bearer form;
  • Negotiable instruments in bearer form.

The judge presiding over the case ruled that Bitcoins do not equal any type of tangible wealth and that the Bitcoin has not yet risen to the level of qualifying as actual money. The judge also noted that, if in the future the state of Florida began regulating Bitcoins, perhaps then Bitcoins may be considered under the money laundering statute. At this point, however, the felony charges for money laundering were dropped because all of the elements of the crime could not be proven.

This is one example of the complex and unique arguments that can successfully defend against criminal charges. If convicted, the man could have faced up to five year in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.

Call an Experienced White Collar Crime Defense Attorney As Soon As Possible

White collar crimes can result in serious consequences. There are many ways to defend against white collar allegations such as money laundering and it is highly important to have an effective defense strategy built by a skilled criminal defense lawyer who understands financial crime laws. At the law firm of Lavalle, Brown & Ronan, we have represented many individuals facing charges related to finance, technology, and other white collar circumstances. If you are under investigation or have been arrested, call us today at 888-646-1315.

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