The Role of Bitcoin and Florida’s Financial Crimes

Palm Beach Gardens Defense Attorney

In Florida, it is illegal for a person to operate an unlicensed business that acts as a service to money transmitter. The type of operations that fall under this category are more or less people who act as unlicensed banks that receive any type of currency and transmit it to another business, entity, or person within or outside of this country. In other words, a person who falls under this category is someone that operates as an unlicensed middleman/woman in a financial transaction. This is to ensure that financial transactions go through the proper channels and the establishment of a currency black market does not put at risk the value of money in any country. If you or a loved one have been arrested for white collar crimes, please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation.

Florida’s Money Laundering Act

A person may be convicted of the Florida Money Laundering Act if he or she is involved in a financial transaction for which he/she knew that the proceeds received were obtained as a result of an illegal activity. Additionally, to be found guilty of money laundering, the person must then take the “dirty proceeds” and carry them through a financial transaction, which will disguise the method by which the proceeds were originally procured.

Many times, men and women who act as money transmitters may be convicted of money laundering in addition to the illegal act of money transmitting if transmitting the currency is one way to conceal the method by which the dirty money was originally procured.

The Role of Bitcoin

Though this seems straightforward, and it is requirement that a person knowingly acts in this capacity, a recent court case defined what exactly was meant by the term “currency.” The recent Florida case is the first to tackle the issue of Bitcoin, which is a virtual currency that is not attached to any bank or currency. It is used on the virtual market, and at times is associated with illegal activity because of the fact that it is not traced to a specific market, bank, or currency. According to the court case, the judge found that because Bitcoin is not a currency, as traditionally understood, and is viewed as personal property, the man that was charged for money laundering while acting as a money transmitter, was merely selling personal property. This is a significant case for future legal convictions that may arise as a result of using Bitcoin. Though Courts do not find Bitcoin to be inherently illegal, it was the currency most notoriously connected to the virtual black market, more specifically the Silk Road.

What Does “Promote” Mean in the Money Laundering Act?

The judge also determined that to be found guilty of money laundering, a person must be involved with “promoting” the illegal activity. The word “promote” went under the microscope in an attempt to determine what exactly entailed a “promotion” of illegal activity. The judge found that it was too vague and needed an update before money-laundering cases could continue to be prosecuted in Florida.

Entrapment as an Affirmative Defense

One affirmative defense that a criminal defendant may use if he or she has been arrested for money laundering is entrapment. Entrapment is the legal defense in the event that a law enforcement officer, while undercover, solicits help from the criminal defendant to perform an illegal activity. To win an entrapment argument, the criminal defendant must not have already been predisposed to committing the crime in the first place before being approached by the officer. Please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation and more information about affirmative defenses.