On January 29, 2021, Hugo Sergio Mejia, 49, of California, was charged in a two-count information with operating an unlicensed money transmitting business and money laundering. In a plea agreement, Mejia agreed to plead guilty to these felony offenses.
According to his plea agreement, from May 2018 to September 2020, Mejia operated a virtual currency business that exchanged Bitcoin for cash, and vice versa, charging commissions for these transactions. Mejia admitted he never registered his business with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a bureau with the United States Department of the Treasury that collects and analyzes information to combat financial crimes, including money laundering. During the nearly 2½-year period, according to the plea agreement, Mejia exchanged at least $13 million.
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. On several occasions between May 2019 and March 2020, Mejia met with a client, who was working with law enforcement, to exchange Bitcoin for tens of thousands of dollars in cash, according to the plea agreement. On March 12, 2020, Mejia met with the client at a coffee shop in Irvine and facilitated the exchange of 14.273 Bitcoin for $82,150 in cash plus fees. During this meeting, the client informed Mejia that his primary customer was a methamphetamine buyer in Australia.
Mejia agreed to forfeit all assets derived from the illegal conduct. When sentenced, he will face a maximum prison term of 25 years.