California man to serve three years in federal prison for illegal bitcoin exchange and money laundering

A California man who in February agreed to plead guilty to felony charges of money laundering and operating a crypto exchange without proper licensure has been sentenced to three years in federal prison, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

As The Block previously reported, Hugo Sergio Mejia operated a Bitcoin-to-cash money transmitting business without a license approved by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) — the branch of the Treasury Department responsible for ensuring legal financial transactions — between May 2018 and September 2020. 


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In that time, prosecutors say, Mejia exchanged at least $13 million in assets and at certain points knowingly did so for parties he had been informed were involved in illicit drug trafficking. He also set up companies named Worldwide Secure Communications LLC, World Secure Data, and The HODL Group LLC to hide the nature of his business. 

Mejia officially pleaded guilty to the charges in July of this year, as per the DoJ statement, and had faced up to 25 years in prison. 

About Author

MK Manoylov has been a reporter for The Block since 2020 — joining just before bitcoin surpassed $20,000 for the first time. Since then, MK has written nearly 1,000 articles for the publication, covering any and all crypto news but with a penchant toward NFT, metaverse, web3 gaming, funding, crime, hack and crypto ecosystem stories. MK holds a graduate degree from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program (SHERP) and has also covered health topics for WebMD and Insider. You can follow MK on X @MManoylov and on LinkedIn.