Former head of credit union took bribes for bitcoin, feds says

The former chairman of a Jackson federal credit union was charged today in federal court with accepting more than $150,000 in bribes to turn over the credit union’s functions to operators of an illegal bitcoin exchange.

Trevon Gross, 46, former chairman of the Helping Other People Excel Federal Credit Union, is charged with accepting bribes, according to the office of Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Gross surrendered earlier today to the FBI, it said.

HOPE Cathedral in Jackson lists Gross as its pastor on its website. 

US District Attorney For NY Holds News Conference On Insider Trading ArrestPreet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. (Peter Foley | Bloomberg)
 

Court records say that Gross conspired with Anthony Murgio, the operator of an unlicensed bitcoin exchange called Coin.mx, and Yuri Lebedev, its computer operations manager, to fund operations of the exchange. 

According to Gross’ indictment, between October, 2013 and July 2015, Coin.mx exchanged millions of dollars for bitcoins, a virtual currency, from customers across the United States. The indictment says Murgio and the others miscoded credit and debit card transactions and limited the dollar amount of individuals transactions to trick banks into allowing the transactions to be completed.

The indictment also says Murgio and Lebedev also operated a phony front business to launder the exchange’s proceeds.

To evade scrutiny from financial agencies, Murgio and Lebedev took control of the credit union by bribing Gross, who helped his co-conspirators get on the credit union’s board of directors, according to the documents. 

Man gets 7 years for credit union heist

They operated the credit union as a captive bank for Coin.mx until at least early 2015, the indictment says.

The National Credit Union Administration forced the credit union to cease operations when it learned of the payment processing for bitcoins.  

The administration on Nov. 20 liquidated the credit union, which had assets of $626,529 and served 110 members in 2015.

Gross is charged with one count of corruptly accepting payments as an officer of a financial institution, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, Bharara’s office said. 

Murgio and Lebedev, who were arrested July 21, were charged with one count of conspiracy to corruptly make payments to an officer of a financial institution, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. 

Murgio is also charged with corruptly making payments to an officer of a financial institution, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, it said.

In addition, Murgio is charged with one count of conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business and one count of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business, each of which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; and one count of money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, it said.   

Tim Darragh may be reached at tdarragh@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @timdarragh. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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