House owners of Underground, Worldwide Monetary Establishments Sentenced for Working Unlicensed Cash Transmitting Enterprise | USAO-SDCA

U.S. Assistant Attorneys Daniel Silva (619) 546-9713 and Mark W. Pletcher (619) 546-9714


SAN DIEGO – Lei Zhang, of Las Vegas, Nevada, was sentenced yesterday by federal court to 15 months in prison and forfeited $ 150,000 for running an unlicensed money transfer business.

Zhang is believed to be the first person in the United States to be convicted of his role in developing a new form of illegal underground financial institution that transfers money between the United States and China, thereby enforcing domestic and foreign money transfer laws and reporting evades, including United including State Anti-Money Laundering Controls and Chinese Capital Flight Controls.

As stated in court documents, Zhang collected US dollars (in cash) from various third parties in the United States and delivered that money to a customer, usually a high roller player from China, who had no easy access to cash in the US States due to capital controls that limit the amount of Chinese currency that a person can convert into foreign currency to $ 50,000 per year. After receiving the US dollars, the player transfers the equivalent of the Chinese yuan (using a banking app) from the customer’s Chinese bank account to a Chinese bank account named by Defendant Zhang. In order to facilitate these transactions, Zhang was paid a commission based on the illegally transferred monetary value.

Zhang also admitted that he was regularly introduced to customers by casino hosts who were trying to improve casino customers’ gambling. By connecting money hungry gamblers in the United States to Zhang’s illegal money transfer businesses, the casinos increased the domestic cash game of their China-based high-roller customers. All a player needed was a mobile device with remote access to a China-based bank account. As a result, Zhang managed to transfer and convert electronic funds in China into hard currencies in the United States while bypassing the obstacles imposed by both China’s capital controls and anti-money laundering controls imposed on all US financial institutions. were imposed. Casino hosts often received a cut on Zhang’s commission for their efforts.

“The pioneering work these investigators have done in identifying and tracking down this new form of illicit money transfer cannot be overstated,” said acting US Attorney Randy Grossman. “Prosecuting global money laundering is a priority for US attorneys.”

Special agents from Homeland Security Investigations, the IRS Criminal Investigation Las Vegas Financial Crime Task Force, and the Drug Enforcement Administration led the investigation into Zhang’s operations.

ACCUSED file number 20-CR-370-WQH

Lei Zhang Las Vegas, NV Age: 41


Operating an Unlicensed Money Transfer Business – Title 18, USC, Section 1960

Maximum sentence: Five years in prison and a fine of $ 250,000


Homeland Security Investigations

IRS Criminal Investigation Las Vegas Financial Crime Task Force

Drug Enforcement Administration

Ontario man will plead responsible to cash laundering, unlicensed Bitcoin transactions – Day by day Bulletin

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.