Evading AML: Hacking, Bitcoins, & a ‘captive’ bank


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Talk about motivated to money launder. New Justice Department charges allege that two Florida men linked to the hacker attack on JPMorgan Chase actually took over a small New Jersey credit union in order to launder over $30 million per month. Seriously.

The charges name Anthony R. Murgio and Yuri Lebedev in the bold laundering scheme. According to the FBI, since 2013 the two men operated an underground Bitcoin exchange, which included extensive transfer of ransom funds from hackers who used the JPMorgan Chase data breach to extort money from victims of “ransomware” cyber attacks.

The defendants and their alleged co-conspirators had allegedly operated an online collectibles and memorabilia enterprise as a front company for the illicit Bitcoin exchange, but maintaining the ruse and evading BSA-AML-related red flags on their bank accounts at legitimate financial institutions proved difficult due to the volume of money that needed to be laundered.

To evade banks’ reporting requirements, the two men are alleged to have engineered a takeover of a small New Jersey credit union that had been established to serve low-income residents of the local community. Murgio obtained beneficial control of the federal credit union, and he then installed Lebedev on the board of directors and placed his co-conspirators in positions of authority—in essence transforming the small credit union into what the FBI described as a “captive bank.”

Prior to the Murgio-Lebedev takeover, the credit union had only about $200,000 on deposit from its small membership. However, after the takeover the credit union took on an account from a payment processor—an account that saw $30 million in deposits in a single month. However, officials from the National Credit Union Administration noticed rather quickly the change in expected behavior and the criminal operations through the “captive bank” were ceased and charges resulted. If convicted, the defendants are expected to face substantial terms in federal prisons.

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