Defense claims Bitcoin is not money in Miami laundering case

New York Man Convicted Of Fraud And Money Laundering
New York Man Convicted Of Fraud And Money Laundering

A University professor testified Friday at a money laundering trial in Miami, Florida, that Bitcoin could not be considered money under Florida law and was more akin to poker chips.

Barry University associate economics professor Charles Evans made the claim during the trial of Michell Espinoza, who according to The Miami Herald is accused of illegally selling and laundering $1,500 worth of Bitcoins to undercover detectives who claimed they wanted to use them to buy stolen credit card numbers.

Espinoza’s defense team is arguing that the laundering charges are invalid due to the fact that Bitcoin isn’t technically money under local law.

“Basically, it’s poker chips that people are willing to buy from you,” Evans testified, despite the ironic fact that he was being paid $3,000 in Bitcoin for his appearance as a defense witness.

When asked by an attorney “is Bitcoin an actual coin…in a sense a physical piece of base metal?,” Evans replied “No.”

In addition, Evans also testified that no central bank backs Bitcoin, that regulation within the United States is scattered and nonuniform, and that the IRS considers trading with Bitcoin as bartering, before going on to liken Bitcoin worth to how collectors assign values to baseball cards or comic books.

Being watched

According to the report, the case is being watched by closely in financial and tech circles as it is believed to be the first money-laundering case against someone for dealing in Bitcoins.
That’s not an unfair call, although the circumstances of this case are also somewhat different: Espinoza was trapped by detectives using LocalBitcoins to make the exchange with the illegality only due to the fact that the detectives told Espinoza what they wanted to use the Bitcoin for; conversely if they hadn’t told Espinoza they wanted the Bitcoin for nefarious purposes, would it have not then been a legal trade?

The defense claim that Bitcoin is not money is a novel defense which shouldn’t be accepted, but given legal statutes were written prior to the invention of cryptocurrency it may well be found that under the law the way it is written that Bitcoin is indeed not money.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Teresa Mary Pooler will making a ruling of the defense’s motion to dismiss in approximately two weeks time.

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