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Cryptocurrencies have been the preferred currency by many criminal organizations and individuals for the ease of funds-transfer across borders and anonymity that they provide. Furthermore, the promise of magical return on investment that cryptocurrencies are associated with mixed with the lack of awareness regarding their inner workings leaves people vulnerable to fraud and theft.
Criminals and conmen across the world have been happy to take advantage of these factors to rob people of their hard-earned money and savings. The latest story of fraud comes from the US where a cryptocurrency entrepreneur pleads guilty to wire fraud in San Diego federal court this week.
Morgan Rockcoons (aka Morgan Rockwell), who had an alleged plan to create a cryptocurrency supported Utopia out in the Nevada high desert, admitted that he sold land that he never actually owned to investors he had lured in. Rockcoons first caught the authorities eye because of his Bitcoin exchange services that he proudly advertised online.
Under the federal US law, cryptocurrency exchanges are treated the same as money transmitters and must be registered as such with the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network arm. The financial watchdog is aimed at fighting money laundering through regulations and laws. Furthermore, exchanges must also follow the KYC (Know Your Customer) rules as well as report any transaction over $10,000 to the government.
In 2016, Rockcoon was apprehended by an undercover federal agent who posed as a hash oil manufacturer and needed Bitcoin equipment. Rockcoon admitted to the court that he transferred $9,000 worth of Bitcoin for a fee of over $14,000. The remainder were kept as transaction fees. While out on bail from his last charges, he started another scheme where he promised would be investors a new city that he was going to build out in the desert, and offered up to 1000 acres of land to his investors in the new technological city. At least 10 people fell for Rockcoon’s lies and paid him to purchase said land.
For his actions, Rockcoon faces up to 20 years in prison for wire fraud and five years for money laundering charges. With the rising amount of attention that cryptocurrencies are getting it is important that authorities and cryptocurrency exchanges come with a comprehensive set of regulations to help protect people from fraud and to halt any money laundering attempts.
Only through dedication and resolve will the cryptocurrency market be able to detach itself from the bad reputation it’s accumulated over the years from being associated with the countless stories of criminal activities such as fraud and money laundering.