The head of a New Jersey credit union has been accused of turning control of his bank over to the operators of an alleged illegal Bitcoin exchange.
On Thursday, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) charged Trevon Gross, the once-chairman of the HOPE Credit Union, with taking a $150,000 bribe from the operators of the coin.mx Bitcoin exchange. He then allowed coin.mx to use the credit union to facilitate illegal transactions, it is claimed.
The charges are related to the 2015 FBI takedown of coin.mx and the charges brought against operators Anthony Murgio and Yuri Lebedev for allegedly operating the site as an unlicensed currency exchange.
According to the FBI, Murgio and Lebedev knowingly performed illegal Bitcoin-to-cash transactions, including ransomware payments, for customers while hiding the payments from authorities and banks by disguising the payments and payouts as part of a “collectable memorabilia” exchange.
In order to further conceal the nature of the exchange, the DOJ charges that Murgio and Lebedev paid Gross a total of $150,000 for spots on the HOPE board of directors.
Once given control over the credit union’s affairs, the coin.mx operators used the credit union to host their accounts and facilitate the illegal exchange operation, it is claimed. The FBI seized control of the HOPE Credit Union in October of 2015 and has since liquidated it.
Gross is charged with one count of corruptly accepting payments as an officer of a financial institution. He faces a maximum of 30 years in prison if convicted.
Murgio and Lebedev have each been charged with conspiracy to corruptly make payments, while Murgio also faces charges of conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business and one count of operating an illegal money transmitting business as well as charges of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and money laundering.
Trial for all three defendants is scheduled for October 31 of this year. ®