A LA-based trader has pleaded guilty for running an illegal, unregistered multi-million dollar money transmitting business that exchanged the digital currency Bitcoin for cash.
Fifty-year-old Theresa Tetley, who worked under the name “Bitcoin Maven,” made at least $300,000 a year from trading bitcoin on Localbitcoins.com between 2014 and 2017, according to NBC Los Angeles. She also made transactions over that time worth from $6 million to $9.5 million. Sentencing has been postponed from Monday and no new date is set as of now.
According to the court papers, Tetley's business “fueled a black-market financial system in the Central District of California that purposely and deliberately existed outside of the regulated bank industry.”
The ‘pseudonymous’ nature of Bitcoin transactions has made their use popular with drug dealers on the dark web and their customers in the past. The U.S. Attorney’s Office added to Tetley’s crimes that a large portion of the proceeds of her business had previously been involved in drug trafficking.
The ex-trader now faces a 30-month federal jail sentence for the crimes, if the government gets its way in court on Monday, although her defense team is pushing for a lesser sentence of one year. Federal prosecutors also hope to seize 40 BTC (currently worth $270,000), $292,264 and 25 gold bars seized by law enforcement agents in March.
While the case is thought to the first of its kind in Southern California other bitcoin traders have run afoul of authorities in other parts of U.S. in the last year. Notably, Sam Mansy, a Detroit based bitcoin trader was sentenced in December 2017 to 366 days in jail for similarly operating an unlicensed money services business.
In the past, LocalBitcoins has been a favorite of those buyers and sellers of the digital currency who want to do so without linking their bank account to their operations. In countries like China and Venezuela, as the central governments try to limit trading of Bitcoin, as LocalBitcoins can be traded using the website directly for cash in person.