A Florida judge threw out state money-laundering charges against a man who was accused of illegally selling more than $1,500 in bitcoins to undercover detectives, concluding the virtual currency doesn’t qualify as money.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Teresa Mary Pooler cleared Michell Espinoza in what prosecutors called the first state money-laundering prosecution involving the virtual currency.
“Bitcoin may have some attributes in common with what we commonly refer to as money, but differ in many important aspects,” Pooler said in a ruling made public Monday. “They are certainly not tangible wealth and cannot be hidden under a mattress like cash and gold bars.”
Bitcoins and other virtual currencies allow users to spend money anonymously, although the virtual currency can also be bought and sold through regulated services such as CoinBase.
Using the name “Michelhack,” Espinoza allegedly sold bitcoin to an undercover detective who claimed to want to use it to pay some Russians for stolen credit cards. The sales occurred in public places, such as a Nespresso coffee shop in Miami Beach in December 2013 and a Haagen-Dazs store in Miami in 2014, Pooler said.
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