Pastor Charged With Taking Bribes from Defunct Bitcoin Exchange

(@mpmcsweeney) | Published on March 4, 2016 at 17:38 GMT
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A New Jersey pastor and former credit union executive has been indicted for allegedly taking bribes from the now-defunct bitcoin exchange Coin.mx.

As previously reported by CoinDesk, Coin.mx operators Anthony Murgio and Yuri Lebedev were arrested last summer and charged with running an illegal money services business.

Prior to its closure, Coin.mx functioned by way of a so-called “Collector’s Club”, in which customers were considered members of a private organization. Prosecutors allege that this structure was used to obscure the nature of the exchange.

Pastor Trevón Gross, named in a superseding indictment unsealed yesterday, is accused of taking bribes worth more than $150,000 in exchange for allowing the takeover of New Jersey-based Hope Federal Credit Union. Coin.mx staff, including Lebedev, were allegedly placed on the board of the credit union after the bribes were made.

The indictment alleges:

“Trevon Gross, the defendant, who was the Chairman of the Board of Hope FCU, allowed Murgio, Lebedev, and their co-conspirators to take control of t Hope FCU and assisted their efforts in exchange for bribes which Gross directed Murgio to pay to bank accounts under Gross’s control.”

Gross has been charged with one count of corruptly accepting payments as an officer of a financial institution, and if convicted could face as many as 30 years in jail. The trial is set to begin on 31st October.

Gross is currently listed as the the CEO and pastor of Hope Cathedral, which is based in Jackson, New Jersey, according to his LinkedIn profile. He turned himself into FBI custody on Thursday morning, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

According to federal prosecutors, the credit union was used as a means of avoiding scrutiny of bitcoin transactions on the Coin.mx exchange, which the government has alleged was a vehicle for international money laundering.

The National Credit Union Administration, a federal agency that oversees credit union activity in the US, moved last November to liquidate Hope FCU after placing it in receivership a month prior.

As we reported at the time, the investigation and subsequent indictment against the Coin.mx operators also made connections to a string of cyberattacks of major financial institutions including JPMorgan Chase, though those allegations are not included in this particular case.

The full superseding indictment can be found below.

U.S. v. Murgio Et Al S2 Indictment

Image via Shutterstock

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