Bitcoin cited in California state senator Leland Yee corruption case

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California State Senator Leland Yee

California State Senator Leland Yee

California State Sen. Leland Yee was arrested yesterday on charges of public corruption, soliciting funds from undercover FBI agents in exchange for promises to aid in a gun-trafficking deal that would have illegally armed Muslim rebels in the Philippines. Yee was one of 26 people charged in the the five-year-long investigation, as was accused murder-for-hire organizer and drug trafficker Marlon Sullivan. Sullivan appears to have been involved in a wide variety of criminal activities, including credit card fraud. He also appears to be a bitcoin user.

While talking with an undercover FBI agent (referred to as “UCE 4599” in court documents) about laundering the proceeds of a cocaine deal and planning a murder-for-hire, Sullivan paid for a meal with a fraudulent credit card. Sullivan claimed to have a facility where the cards were made, using stolen electronic keys from a Russian criminal known as “The President.” On page 88 of the criminal complaint (PDF), Sullivant noted how he was able to buy the cards:

SULLIVAN stated he used web sites to include ICQ to contact sellers of electronic keys and that SULLIVAN paid for the electronic keys with the virtual currency, Bitcoin. … SULLIVAN told UCE 4599 that living a criminal lifestyle was more of a “power and challenge thing,” that SULLIVAN didn’t have to manufacture fraudulent credit cards, but “it was fun.”

While bitcoin plays a very small role in this extraordinarily complex story of corruption, fraud, drugs, planned murder and other crimes, it does add some merit to the claims that bitcoin can be used to facilitate criminal dealings. Sullivan faces to 10-years-to-life behind bars for a variety of crimes, although credit card fraud does not appear to be on the list of charges. Yee appears to have had no direct connection with the bitcoin element of this case, and faces up to 20 years in prison.

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