An Ontario man has pledged to plead guilty to running an unlicensed company that exchanged tens of millions of dollars in bitcoin and cash, as well as money laundering, prosecutors said.
Hugo Sergio Mejia, 49, was charged on Friday, January 29, and entered into an objection agreement, also filed on Friday, the US prosecutor said in a press release.
From May 2018 to September 2020, Mejia ran a virtual company that exchanged Bitcoin for cash and vice versa, charging commissions for these transactions as per the defense agreement. Mejia admitted never registering his business with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, an office of the Treasury Department that combats financial crimes, including money laundering, Justice Department attorneys said in the press release.
During the reporting period, Mejia exchanged at least $ 13 million under the defense agreement.
Mejia also admitted that he founded companies to disguise his true activity, including Worldwide Secure Communications, World Secure Data, and The HODL Group. His business was advertised online and verbally referred to customers, communicated with them via encrypted messaging services, and met them personally in coffee shops, the agreement says.
Between May 2019 and March 2020, Mejia met with a client who was working with law enforcement to exchange Bitcoin for tens of thousands of dollars in cash, as per the defense agreement.
On March 12, 2020, Mejia met with the customer at a coffee shop in Irvine and facilitated the exchange of 14,273 Bitcoin for $ 82,150 in cash plus fees, the DOJ said. Mejia and the client made five bitcoin cash transactions that cumulatively exceeded $ 250,000, the defense agreement states.
At one point, prosecutors said the customer told Mejia that their primary customer was a methamphetamine buyer in Australia.
Mejia agreed to forfeit all assets derived from the illegal conduct, including $ 233,987 in cash seized from residential homes in Santa Ana and Ontario, silver coins and bars, and approximately $ 95,587 in various seizures Cryptocurrencies.
Mejia is sentenced to a maximum legal sentence of 25 years in federal prison.