Florida money-laundering case hinges on Bitcoin's legal status as "money"

Home » Florida money-laundering case hinges on Bitcoin's legal status as "money"

http://www.flickr.com/photos/100239928@N08/Earlier this month, two Florida men were charged with in an alleged Bitcoin-based money-laundering scheme. Today, an attorney for one of the men argued that the Florida law they were being charged under wasn’t applicable, noting that the law only applies to money issued by the U.S. or other countries. As a decentralized, completely virtual currency that is never issued by any particular party, Bitcoin doesn’t appear to fit the legal definition of “money” in Florida.

Pascal Reid is accused of selling $25,000 worth of Bitcoin to an undercover Secret Service agent who claimed the proceeds came from credit-card fraud. Michell Abner Espinoza is accused of offering to sell roughly $30,000 to another agent, although he later backed out of the deal. Reid’s attorney, Ron Lowy, argued in a bail-reduction motion that no law was broken, and that prosecutors had no jurisdiction as Bitcoin falls outside the language of Florida’s definition of money laundering. The motion asked for Reid’s bail to be lowered from $450,000 to $25,000.

“No one ever anticipated there would be a non-government form of currency, but there is,” Lowy told reporters after the hearing.

Speaking with Bloomberg News, Ed Griffith, spokesman for the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, said that the coming decision was an important development for criminal law.

[Digital currency] is both a new area of the law and a new area of criminal activity. As prosecutors, we relish the opportunity to help define the law regarding this potentially important field.”

Reid and Espinoza’s cases are currently set for March 10 and 11, respectively.

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