Florida Man Trying to Get Case Thrown Out Claiming Bitcoin Is Not Real Money

Michell Espinoza, a Florida resident has criminal charges against him for illegally selling Bitcoin and money laundering. He and his attorney are arguing that there are no criminal offenses because bitcoin is not recognized as real currency under Florida law.

Economics Professor, Charles Evans took the witness stand on Friday to help better inform everyone about Bitcoin. The main point of Evan’s explanation was that Bitcoin was not real money. No centralized government or banks back it, as the United States does for its dollar. Regulation still remains different from state to state, and in different countries, as well. To top it off, he mentioned how the IRS categorizes dealing with bitcoin as a little more than bartering.

“Basically, it’s poker chips that people are willing to buy,” Professor Evans stated.

Ironically, Evans received $3,000 USD worth of bitcoin for appearing as a witness for the defense.

As attorney Frank Andrew Prieto held up a U.S. Quarter, a value of 25 cents, he said “Is bitcoin an actual coin?”

“In a sense of a physical piece of base metal? No,” Evans answered.

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Michell Espinoza was busted when he tried to illegally sell and launder $1,500 worth of bitcoin to undercover detectives who claimed they were going to buy stolen credit card numbers with the bitcoins that they were purchasing.

Espinoza’s attorneys, Prieto and Rene Palomino are saying the case should be thrown out because bitcoin is not real money under Florida law so the charges of money laundering do not apply. The judge in this case, the Honorable Teresa Mary Pooler will not decide for another couple weeks, but she was asking Evans a lot of questions, and even asked for more time to do research of her own.

“This is the most fascinating thing I’ve heard in this courtroom in a long time,” Judge Pooler remarked.

Prosecutors are under tough scrutiny in this case, under the watchful eye of tech, as well as the financial circles due to it being the first known case of someone accused of money laundering for dealing bitcoins. Due to its ever growing popularity, law enforcement are scrambling to figure out where it fits into criminal activity. They are aware however, of the fact that it is highly used in online criminal activity, such as dark net’s black markets.

The 32-year-old web designer, who called himself MichelHack online, illegally sold undercover investigators $1,500 worth of BTC, the prosecution claims. He was targeted by law enforcement on LocalBitcoins.com, when they told Espinoza that they planned to use the bitcoin to buy stolen credit card data. Detectives met with Espinoza three separate times.

Along with Espinoza, Pascal Reid was arrested, and pleaded guilty to impersonating an unlicensed money broker. He was given probation when he agreed to work with law enforcement agents in the Miami-Dade county and teach them more about bitcoin as a currency. The only lesson Friday came from Evans’ testimony, however.

He told the court that since the 1990’s he has been involved with digital currencies. He runs a nonprofit organization that helps small businesses in developing countries called Conscious Entrepreneurship Foundation.

“Indeed, bitcoin use is increasing in places such as Africa, where the banking system is broken. The market for bitcoin can vary; like today, one bitcoin is worth around 470 dollars,” Evans testified. He also compared the value of bitcoin to how the value is placed on collector cards and comics.

The prosecution responded in haste. “You don’t buy hamburgers with comic books. You usually purchase them with cash, or in this case, bitcoins,” Prosecutor Tom Haggerty responded to Evans on Friday.

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