US Hits Crypto Buying Service Payza With Money Laundering Lawsuit

The founders of Payza, which allows customers to trade in cryptocurrencies, have been charged with running an unlicensed money transmitting business.

AccessTimeIconMar 21, 2018 at 7:50 p.m. UTC
Updated Dec 12, 2022 at 12:42 p.m. UTC
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UPDATE (Feb. 12, 2021): Payza's founders accepted plea deals in 2020, forfeiting $4.5 million and agreeing to serve prison sentences. Firoz Patel received a three-year sentence, while Ferhan received an 18-month sentence. The Department of Justice's press release was changed to remove references and allegations related to child pornography.

Digital payment processor Payza has been charged by the U.S. government with running an unlicensed money services business.

One of the founders of the firm, Ferhan Patel, has been arrested, while his brother, co-founder Firoz Patel, remains at large. On Tuesday, the Department of Justice unveiled the charges and accused the Patels and Pazya of facilitating as much as $250 million in money laundering on behalf of Ponzi schemes and child pornography sites, among other enterprises.

The court filing lists several charges: conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business, conspiracy to launder money, and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business in the District of Columbia.

While the government's statements and accompanying indictment make no mention of cryptocurrencies, the firm has been operating in the space for some time, offering buys and sells of bitcoin since 2014. The company expanded to other cryptocurrencies last year, when it said in a press release that it would offer exchange services for XRP and ethereum, among others, and more recently announcedhttps://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/payza-partners-with-blockcypher-to-launch-dash-cryptocurrency-payments-300615602.html that it was integrating dash.

Per the U.S. government's court filing, which was released Tuesday but is dated Nov. 3, 2016, the Patels "operated a money transmitting business that operated without the necessary state licenses and knowingly transmitted funds that were derived from illegal activity."

"Defendants ... knew that many of co-conspirator Payza's customers transmitted criminally derived proceeds via co-conspirator Payza. The transmission of these funds promoted the continuation and operation of these underlying criminal schemes," the filing states. All told, Payza allegedly transmitted more than $250 million over the course of six years.

The filings also make mention of two other firms, AlertPay and EgoPay, which the Patels were said to have owned and managed. EgoPay froze customer funds in early 2015, later claiming that it had been the target of a hack. The service closed down that year, as noted in the Department of Justice's document.

Court documents indicate that Ferhan Patel was arrested in Michigan and will be transported to Washington, D.C. A message sent to Firoz Patel by way of his personal website was not returned by press time.

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