Judge Orders LocalBitcoins User to Teach Police on Digital Currency

Pete Rizzo
Sep 16, 2015 at 20:05 UTC
Updated Sep 17, 2015 at 04:51 UTC
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A judge has sentenced Florida LocalBitcoins user Pascal Reid to serves 90 days in jail in a ruling that closes a high-profile legal case dating back to February 2014.

Originally charged with operating an unauthorized money transmission business and with money laundering, Reid plead guilty to a single count of operating as an unlicensed money transmitter. Reid will receive five years probation and must provide informational assistance to law enforcement and financial entities about bitcoin and digital currencies.

As part of the deal, Reid has been tasked with completing “no less than 20 trainings” on digital currency and cybercrime, to be organized by Detective Ricardo Arias of the City of Miami Beach Police Department.

Reid is also required to make himself available to the Miami Beach Police Department, the US Secret Service and the Miami Electronic Crimes Task Force as needed for the development of the sessions.

Attorney Ron Lowy, of Miami-based law firm Lowy and Cook PA, told CoinDesk that he and his client are “very pleased with the outcome”.

Lowy told CoinDesk:

“Pascal [Reid] was facing years in prison. But, I think the government has come to the conclusion that Pascal never intended to do anything dishonest.”

Reid was originally arrested alongside Michell Abner Espinoza during a sting operation in which an undercover agent sought to exchange $30,000 for bitcoin in an effort to purchase stolen credit cards.

Both men were initially charged under anti-money laundering statutes, which prohibit exchanges of more than $10,000, and money transmission law that limits residents from conducting personal transactions involving currency or payment instruments to $20,000 annually.

Reid will also be credited for past jail time served from 7th February, 2014, to 14th March, 2014, and be required to pay back $500 in legal fees incurred by the state.

Founded in 2012, LocalBitcoins is a peer-to-peer bitcoin exchange service based in Finland.

Training sessions

Due to its status as one of the first cases of its kind, the Bitcoin Foundation had filed a motion in August of last year arguing that Florida Statute 560.125 should be applied in Reid’s case as he was an individual, not a corporate entity.

When asked about possible precedent established by the now-concluded case, Lowy suggested that, since an agreement was reached out of court, it’s unlikely to have any impact future.

“We have to recognize that an appellate court has not ruled that bitcoin meets the definition of something under the money transfer statute. The risk of a ruling would result in Pascal receiving a more severe sentence,” he explained.

Lowy indicated that he believes this event would be more likely in future cases, as he believes law enforcement will not continue to enlist those arrested in opportunities like law enforcement training sessions.

“I think they recognize that they wanted to extend a warning to the bitcoin community to be wary of who you do business with and they have sent the message they wanted to send,” he continued.

According to Lowy, training sessions were included in the final punishment at the request of both Arias and Katherine Rundle, the state attorney for Miami-Dade County, Florida.

Reid did not respond directly to requests for comment as of press time.

For more information, read an initial draft of the plea agreement below:

Pascal Reid Plea Agreement (Initial Draft)

Handcuff and gavel image via Shutterstock