LA Trader Faces Prosecution for Illegal Bitcoin-Fiat Exchange

A Bitcoin trader in Los Angeles, California is facing prosecution for allegedly running an unregistered multimillion dollar Bitcoin-fiat money transmitting business, NBC LA reported yesterday, June 11.

Under her pseudonym the ‘Bitcoin Maven’, Theresa Tetley, 50, reportedly earned at least $300,000 annually from her black market business, which ran between 2014 and 2017 via a listing on localbitcoins.com. The U.S. Attorney's Office has contended that the ‘Maven’ exchanged between $6 and $9.5 mln in the course of her operations.

The case is reportedly considered to be the first of its kind in Southern California.

Tetley has pleaded guilty to federal charges of operating an unregistered money transmission business, as well as to conducting one financial transaction prosecutors are alleging involved proceeds from drug trafficking.

In the court papers, prosecutors accuse the Maven of "fuel[ing] a black-market financial system [...] that purposely and deliberately existed outside of the regulated bank industry."

The government is pursuing a 30-month federal prison sentence for the crime, with Tetley's defense attorney arguing for a reduced term of one year.

Federal prosecutors further request an order of forfeiture for 40 Bitcoin (about $269,600 at press time), in addition to $292,264 and 25 assorted gold bars that were seized by law enforcement on March 30.

Prosecutors postponed sentencing on Monday, June 11, and have yet to announce a rescheduled date.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) regulates crypto-fiat dealings under existing legislation for money transmitters.

As of 2011, U.S. cryptocurrency exchangers and administrators have been subject to the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). In 2013, FinCEN issued further guidance clarifying that they are required to register as money service businesses (MSB) and comply with anti-money laundering (AML) measures and a range of internal safeguards aimed at financial crime prevention.