California man to plead guilty to running an unlicensed Bitcoin exchange service

A man from Ontario, California, has agreed to plead guilty to felony charges of money laundering and operating a virtual currency business without a FinCEN-approved license, according to a statement from the Department of Justice released last week. 


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Hugo Sergio Mejia, 49, had allegedly been operating a business exchanging Bitcoin and cash for roughly two and a half years, between May 2018 and September 2020. During that time, Mejia exchanged $13 million worth of the virtual asset, sometimes to parties he allegedly knew were involved in the international drug trade. Mejia also purportedly set up three decoy companies — Worldwide Secure Communications LLC, World Secure Data, and The HODL Group LLC — to hide the extent of his activity. 

Though it’s unclear how much he netted from commissions, Mejia forfeited nearly $234,000 in cash, silver coins and bars, as well as roughly $96,000 in crypto during his case, led by IRS Criminal Investigation and Homeland Security Investigations. Expected to officially plead guilty in March, Mejia faces up to 25 years in federal prison.