An Ontario man based in San Bernardino County of the United States has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges of illegally operating a bitcoin to cash exchange business. According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the man, Hugo Sergio Mejia, operated the unregistered illegal Bitcoin exchange business between May 2018 and September 2020.
Accordingly, 49-year-old peer-to-peer crypto merchandiser, poet Sergio Mejia, now faces “a statutory maximum sentence of 25 years in federal prison” when he pleads guilty. In a statement announcing the charges, the DOJ says Mejia had, as part of his plea agreement, admitted that he had not “registered his business with the FinCEN.”
The DOJ explains in its released statement that during the “nearly 2½-year period” he had could exchange at least $13 million. However, as part of efforts to conceal his true activity, he also admits that he created companies particularly for this purpose. Moreover, the DOJ statement adds:
Mejia advertised his business online and was referred to customers by word of mouth, communicating with them via encrypted messaging services, and meeting them in person at coffee shops, the plea agreement states.
However, after Mejia “conducted five bitcoin to cash transactions that cumulatively exceeded $250,000”, his works were exposed. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Mejia’s client had apparently cooperated with law enforcement, which resulted in his capture.
In the meantime, the DOJ adds as part of the plea agreement, Mejia will “forfeit all assets derived from the illegal conduct, including $233,987 in cash seized from residences in Santa Ana and Ontario.” Silver coins and bars, and about $95,587 in different cryptocurrencies will also be forfeited to the state.
Hugo Sergio Mejia is predicted to travel before a U.S. district court in March and sees a most statutory sentence of twenty-five years behind bars in federal jail.