Arizona Bitcoin Trader Convicted for Crypto Money Laundering

By: Wolfie Zhao

An Arizona bitcoin trader been convicted for using the cryptocurrency to launder the proceeds of drug deals.

Thomas Mario Costanzo, who goes by Morpheus Titania on Twitter and operated a peer-to-peer bitcoin exchange website, was found guilty of charges of five money laundering by a federal jury in Phoenix on March 28, according to a Justice Department announcement.

The case stems from a previously reported raid in April 2017 by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in which Costanzo was initially arrested for unlawful possession of ammunition that derived from a prior conviction. The DHS further seized Costanzo’s cryptocurrency assets including bitcoin, ethereum and dash, and software pertaining to the tech.

While Costanzo was held in custody following the raid, searches conducted by federal agents at the time raised suspicions that he was using cryptocurrencies to launder proceeds for drug dealers.

The latest conviction came via evidence presented to the federal jury that Costanzo had laundered $164,700 during a two-year period – money taken from undercover federal agents who approached the trader saying they were heroin and cocaine traffickers, according to the announcement.

In addition, evidence was also presented to show that the felon himself used bitcoin to buy drugs, as well as offering an online bitcoin exchange service for others purchasing drugs without implementing know-your-customer authentication procedures.

The Justice Department said each of the five charges can bring a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or a combination of the two. Costanzo is expected to face sentence on June 11.

Cryptocurrencies involved in the case may be forfeited by the U.S. government, added the Justice Department.