Court reverses the dismissal of an alleged money launderer two years later

Quick Take

  • State v. Espinoza
  • Defendant charge violating a Florida law requiring registration as a Money Servicing Business and with two counts of money laundering
  • Trial court agreed with the defendant’s argument that Bitcoin isn’t money under the statute; it disagreed that Bitcoin isn’t a monetary instrument but said that the defendant lacked the required intent to be charged under the statute
  • The state appealed and nearly two years later the Court Appeals issued this opinion, reversing the trial court and reinstating the charges

Disclaimer: These summaries are provided for educational purposes only by Nelson Rosario and Stephen Palley. They are not legal advice. These are our opinions only, aren’t authorized by any past, present or future client or employer. Also we might change our minds. We contain multitudes.

As always, Rosario summaries are “NMR” and Palley summaries are “SDP.

[related id=1]State v. Espinoza, 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 1133 (Fl.Ct.App.3d 2019) [SDP]

The gears of justice (or injustice, depending on your viewpoint) grind slowly sometimes. This case dates back to 2013, and involves questions about whether or not exchanging bitcoin for dollars requires that you register as a Money Servicing Business under Florida law. A trial court said the law didn’t apply to bitcoin in a ruling from two years ago. This new court of appeals opinion reverses this two year old dismissal and reinstates the charges.

At issue here are circa 2013 bitcoin transactions that originated from the defendant’s advertisements on localbitcoins.com. An undercover detective contacted the defendant and exchanged $500 in cash for .40 bitcoin, for which the defendant made a profit of $83.67 dollars. A second transaction involved the purchase of $1,000 worth of bitcoin, for which the defendant made a $167.56 profit. A third transaction involved $500 worth of bitcoin. Following that transaction, the detective “negotiated the transfer of an additional $30,000 worth of bitcoins for a new batch of