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Florida Court Reinstates Felony Charges Over Unofficial Sale of Bitcoin

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Crime incidents of digital assets are quite on its high these days, maybe due to the lack of clarity regarding the sector. Recently, in Miami, U.S. one such occurrence has been reported.

Some local reports say that an appellate court in Florida has reinstated charges against a man as he is alleged to sell unregistered Bitcoins (BTC) to an undercover police officer. The United States appellate court has brought back the charges because the judge of the Third District Court of Appeal dismissed charges against the defendant, Michell Espinoza. Now, the court has passed the judgement which notes that the ruling of dismissing charges against Michell Espinoza was wrong. Here, Espinoza operates as a website designer. He was charged with the crime of transmitting and laundering $1,500 worth of BTC while not holding any money transmitter license.

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At the initial trial of this case in the Miami-Dade circuit court, the defence presented the argument saying that any license is not required for Espinoza, as according to Florida law, Bitcoin is not considered as money. Eventually, the judge stated, while making a judgement that as Bitcoin is not money, its unintentional use does not imply money laundering. The judge noted that BTC is only a ‘poker chips’ that people are willing to buy from you. However, now the appellate court has firmly established that Espinoza has not been registered with Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation, and was involved in unofficial money transmitting. He also didn’t follow anti-money laundering regulation (AML). The court ruled that his

“bitcoins-for-cash business requires him to register as a payment instrument seller and a money transmitter.”

The court believes that the defendant was not just selling his personal bitcoins, but he was operating it as a business. Regarding this reinstated Felony charges, the trial date has not been fixed.

Moreover, Barry University economics professor Charles Evans was part of this case as being an expert legal witness. He has shown disagreement with the court judgement. But, Evans believes that the ruling is a part of a wider trend towards the regulation of cryptocurrencies. He said,

“The Wild West days are over. The regulators and prosecutors are trying to bring order to all the chaos — and this is part of the process.”

Ruti Vora

Ruti regularly contributes in-depth news articles for leading cryptocurrencies. She contributes technical chart-based price updates and analysis pieces on world's leading digital currencies. She holds graduate degree in journalism.

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