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Two suspects were arrested Thursday in connection with a money laundering scheme that used Bitcoins, authorities said.
The arrests of Pascal Reid and Michel Abner Espinoza may be the first case for state prosecutors involving the use of Bitcoins in money laundering operations, a news release from Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said.
People use the newfangled electronic currency on the Internet, and make online payments in a system that is not overseen by any central financial authority.
Fernandez Rundle, U.S. Secret Service Special Agent In Charge Paula Reid and Miami Beach Police Chief Ray Martinez announced that Reid and Espinoza were arrested in separate operations and are both being charged with money laundering. It wasn’t immediately known whether the suspects have attorneys.
Authorities said that Bitcoins, when they are improperly used, are often viewed “as a perfect means of laundering dirty money or for buying and selling illegal goods, such as drugs or stolen credit card information.”
“All of us in law enforcement know that criminals are always seeking new ways to make their activities profitable,” Fernandez Rundle said. “Bitcoins are just a new tool in the cyber criminal’s toolkit. The prosecutors of my Cyber Crimes Unit were proud to work hand in hand with the United States Secret Service and the Miami Beach Police Department to develop 21st-century approaches to halting these new criminal activities.”
Authorities explained that undercover officers and special agents from the Miami Electronic Crimes Task Force who posed as Bitcoins buyers got in touch with people involved in high-volume Bitcoin activity, telling them “that they needed to move money to facilitate their criminal activities. These two individuals offered to assist the agents for a fee, in a number of such transactions, which is the classic definition of money laundering.”
Using Bitcoins gives “a new technological flourish” to an old crime, authorities said.