A US Federal Court said Friday that bitcoin is a form of money covered under the Washington D.C., Money Transmitters Act (MTA).
The court made this conclusion as it denied a motion to dismiss criminal charges against Larry Dean Harmon, the operator of an underground bitcoin trading platform.
In December 2019, a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia indicted Harmon for conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, in violation of state laws. However, Harmon moved to dismiss citing “failure to state an offence.”
Harmon’s move forced the court to determine if bitcoin met the definition of money for purposes of the District of Columbia’s MTA.
In its conclusion, the court states:
“After examination of the relevant statutes, case law, and other sources, the Court concludes that bitcoin is money under the MTA and that Helix, as described in the indictment, was an `unlicensed money transmitting business´ under applicable federal law.”
The court also points out that Harmon himself never disputes that “bitcoin is money as that term is ordinarily used.”
Harmon’s motion to dismiss all charges against him was denied.
According to court documents, Harmon’s operation, Helix—a darknet service—enabled customers, for a fee, to send bitcoins to designated recipients in a manner which was designed to conceal and obfuscate the source or owner of the bitcoins.
Helix was shut down in 2017 while Harmon was arrested in February 2020.
Meanwhile, the documents also reveal that before the launch of Helix, Harmon had written stating that the service “was designed to be a ‘bitcoin tumbler’ that ‘cleans’ bitcoins by providing customers with new bitcoins ‘which have never been to the darknet before.”
Between 2014 and 2017, Helix was used to “exchange approximately 354,468 bitcoins — the equivalent of approximately $311 million.”
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