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DoJ Charges Ontario Man For Illegally Operating Bitcoin-Cash Exchange

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An Ontario man residing in the San Bernardino County was charged with running an unlicensed company that exchanged tens of millions of dollars in Bitcoin and cash, according to a statement by the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ).

49-year old Hugo Sergio Mejia was charged in a two-count information with operating an unlicensed money transmitting business and money laundering. Mejia agreed to plead guilty to these felony offenses. He is expected to plead guilty to the information in United States District Court in March.

According to the complaint, Mejia operated a virtual currency business between May 2018 and September 2020 that exchanged Bitcoin for cash, and vice versa, charging commissions for these transactions. Mejia exchanged at least $13 million during this period.

Mejia admitted he never registered his business with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a bureau with the U.S. Department of the Treasury that collects and analyzes information to combat financial crimes, including money laundering.

Mejia also admitted he established companies to mask his true activity, including Worldwide Secure Communications LLC, World Secure Data, and The HODL Group LLC.

The DoJ stated that 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,

Mejia further agreed to 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 approximately $95,587 in various cryptocurrency seized, according to the DoJ.

Mejia will face a statutory maximum sentence of 25 years in federal prison if he pleads guilty to the two counts in the information.

This matter was investigated by IRS Criminal Investigation and Homeland Security Investigations, which received assistance from the Costa Mesa Police Department.

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