California man gets prison for Bitcoin money laundering

November 19, 2021 GMT

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A Southern California man was sentenced to three years in federal prison for operating an unlicensed business that exchanged at least $13 million in Bitcoin and cash, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Hugo Mejia, 50, of the city of Ontario purposefully flouted money exchange regulations and structured his business to establish an anonymous conduit for money laundering of drug trafficking proceeds, federal prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney sentenced Mejia on Thursday. Mejia pleaded guilty in July to one count of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business and one count of money laundering.

Mejia exchanged Bitcoin for cash and vice versa and charged commissions for the transactions from May 2018 to September 2020, prosecutors said.

The business was never registered with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a Treasury Department bureau that combats financial crimes, including money laundering.