To be money, or not to be money? That is the question when it comes to Bitcoin. Many people around the world have a very vague understanding of what money actually is, and this can certainly extend to the judges at federal levels, who are now having to wrestle with this definition. In a new case dealing with a recently hacking of J.P. Morgan Chase, and other financial companies, a New York Federal District Judge has ruled that Bitcoin does indeed qualify as money.
According to Reuters, Anthony Murgio is seeking to dismiss charges against him related to his alleged operation of the Bitcoin exchange known as Coin.mx, which prosecutors have called unlicensed. Murgio argues that Bitcoins cannot qualify as ‘funds’ under the federal law, which prohibits the operation of an unlicensed money transmitting businesses. U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan disagreed, stating the following in a written statement:
"Bitcoins are funds within the plain meaning of that term, Bitcoins can be accepted as a payment for goods and services or bought directly from an exchange with a bank account. They, therefore, function as pecuniary resources and are used as a medium of exchange and a means of payment.”
This was explained at a pretrial hearing in an effort to have the case thrown out by Murgio, who faces another six criminal counts at trial. The prosecution claims that Coin.mx was owned by Gery Shalon, an Israeli man who has been charged with running a computer fraud scheme that targeted several companies, including J.P. Morgan Chase. It sought to expose personal data of more than 100 million people. The case detail is U.S. v Murgio et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 15-cr-00769.
How Bitcoin is seen has a great deal to do with where the case is heard, as not all jurisdictions see Bitcoin, or the definition of money, the same way. This most recent decision mirrors a decision made in the same U.S. District Court twenty-five months ago by Jed Rakoff. Judge Rakoff also found that Bitcoin qualifies as money on August 19th, 2014 in the case is U.S. v. Faiella, 14-cr-00243, US District Court for the Southern District of New York.
In that decision, Rakoff referenced a precedent-setting decision, in his opinion, by a Texas magistrate in the case of SEC v. Shavers, 2013 WL 4028182 held the previous August, which held that Bitcoins “were a currency or form of money.”
Less than two months ago, we reported on this same issue being adjudicated in Miami, Florida. The money laundering criminal case had to sort out if Bitcoin qualified as money that could represent a financial transaction, in the view of the Judge Teresa Poller, it did not. Poller did not reference the cases in New York or Texas as precedence. This actually is beneficial to the greater community in the area, as money laundering laws cannot be easily thrown towards those using Bitcoin, which could be a means of dissuading its use.