Guy who ran Bitcoins4Less tells Feds he had less than zero laundering protections

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A California man has admitted he grounded to cook anti-money laundering protections into his cryptocurrency exchange, frankincense allowing scammers and supplier traffickers to launder millions of dollars done nan service.

Charles James Randol, 33, who is now owed to beryllium sentenced, faces a maximum of 5 years successful national situation and 3 years supervised release, positive a good of up to $250,000 aliases doubly nan full illicit proceeds from nan scams, whichever magnitude is greater.

According to an statement [PDF] pinch prosecutors to plead guilty, Randol said he operated a virtual-currency money institution called Bitcoins4Less, and later Digital Coin Strategies, betwixt October 2017 and July 2021. The business offered rate for Bitcoin and vice versa, pinch Randol collecting a committee connected nan payouts.

Randol provided cryptocurrency speech services successful various ways, including via nan post, ATMs, and occasionally successful person, prosecutors told a Los Angeles national tribunal connected Tuesday. The Santa Monica man would grip crypto-cash transactions exceeding $10,000 without knowing who his customers were – folks known only arsenic "Puppet Shariff," "White Jetta," "Aaavvv," "Aaaa," and "Yogurt Monster," for illustration – which is hardly successful statement pinch regulatory requirements.

To enactment connected nan correct broadside of American law, Randol should person verified and recorded their identities.

In his plea agreement, nan cryptocurrency trader admitted to 3 in-person transactions betwixt October 2020 to January 2021 successful which he gave an undercover FBI supplier a full of $273,940 successful rate for Bitcoin, and kept a 4 percent committee fee. 

Randol "did not petition a name, impervious of identity, societal information number, aliases immoderate different accusation astir [the undercover agent] aliases nan root of nan costs being exchanged," nan plea statement says.

The business man besides operated a web of automated kiosks successful Southern California that converted rate to crypto, aliases Bitcoin to cash. And he utilized snail message for his operation: chartless individuals mailed "large amounts of US currency" to his station agency boxes, and Randol conducted Bitcoin-for-cash transactions for these shady individuals, too. 

"Additionally, erstwhile suspect received nan packages, nan rate was often packaged successful a suspicious manner, including wrong hidden children's books, concealed wrong clone day aliases vacation presents, buried wrong puzzle pieces, aliases wrapped wrong aggregate magazines," nan tribunal documents say.

FBI agents interviewed Randol astir fraud proceeds that had been mailed to his station agency boxes successful June 2019. Two days later, Randol told a customer he was taking a "hiatus" from converting rate parcels into cryptocurrency because he "ran into an issue" pinch nan Feds. Shortly after, however, Randol agreed to speech $10,000 successful rate for Bitcoin for this aforesaid anonymous punter. 

Regulations are what brought him down

Randol advertised his services connected his website, and third-party sites for illustration, which tribunal documents opportunity "falsely represented that Digital Coin Strategies was 'a afloat compliant FinCEN registered money services business.'"

FinCEN, aliases nan Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, is nan US regulatory assemblage that ensures money services businesses comply pinch nan Bank Secrecy Act. The national rule requires specified firms create and support an anti-money laundering program, record reports for exchanges of rate larger than $10,000, behaviour owed diligence connected customers, and record suspicious activity reports intended to forestall money laundering and different financial crimes.

"In truth, and arsenic elaborate below, suspect intentionally and willfully grounded to comply pinch his obligations nether nan Bank Secrecy Act," according to nan plea agreement.

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Specifically, Randol grounded to cod "appropriate information" astir his customers, record transaction reports, and notify nan authorities of "repeated" suspicious transactions.

His biz had a written anti-money laundering argumentation "to prohibit and actively forestall money laundering and immoderate activity that facilitates money laundering aliases nan backing of violent aliases criminal activities," that said Digital Coin Strategies would return nan above-mentioned actions to comply pinch nan national law. 

Of course, nan patient did not return immoderate of these measures to forestall money laundering.

Randol did prosecute a compliance serviceman successful September 2020, but he ignored this executive's proposal to extremity utilizing accounts branded "test" for customer transactions connected Bitcoin kiosks. This personification besides warned Randol that his in-person transactions accrued his consequence of moving afoul of nan law, but Randol ignored that tip, too.

Although nan plea statement was revenge connected Tuesday, Randol will formally plead blameworthy to nan complaint successful tribunal astatine immoderate constituent during nan adjacent fewer weeks. ®