Yuri Lebedev, an immigrant from Ukraine, was sentenced to 16 months of jail for his role in a Bitcoin scam that used an illegal Bitcoin exchange, Coin.mx, for laundering money for a global hacking ring.
No matter how smart or lucky a criminal is, they usually end up facing the long arm of the law. The latest perpetrator to face justice is Yuri Lebedev, a Florida programmer who had emigrated to the US from Ukraine as an exchange student when he was 16. Now he’s being sentenced to 16 months in jail for his role in a Bitcoin scam featuring the illegal exchange, Coin.mx.
Using Technology for Criminal Enterprise
Yuri Lebedev is 39, married, and the father of three children. He’s also the tech guru behind Coin.mx, an illegal Bitcoin exchange that authorities say laundered money for a global hacking network. The court found that Yuri Lebedev did not actually launder any funds himself or be personally involved in any hacking, but he was found guilty of setting up and maintaining the illegal exchange.
The group behind Coin.mx targeted financial and publishing firms, such as JPMorgan and Dow Jones & Co., to steal customer data. They then targeted millions of victims to spam “pump and dump” penny stock schemes. The cryptocurrency they received for their attacks was then laundered through the Coin.mx exchange.
Yuri Lebedev had set up an array of servers to process the transactions, which were disguised to banks as restaurant delivery charges and online purchases of collectible items in order to be converted into cash. The actual operator of Coin.mx was Anthony Murgio, who was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison. The man behind the hacking scheme itself is Gery Shalon, an Israeli citizen, who was recently released from jail after agreeing to pay a fine of $403 million USD.
Shining Opportunity Squandered
As for Yuri Lebedev, he explained his part in the scheme as wanting to create “cutting edge technology” and build something “that would make me exceptional.” He added that he “got carried away.” However, he is lucky in that he did not get the full ten years that he was facing.
It’s a sad twist as Yuri Lebedev had done a lot to improve his lot in life. He was born in Russia and raised in Ukraine. He was abandoned by his alcoholic father when he was 8 and raised by his mother, who was a scientist. He came to the US as an exchange student when he was 16. He graduated from Valdosta State University with degrees in physics and computer science, and he then went on to gain a Masters in Science and Physics from Florida State University. As one could see, Yuri Lebedev is an extremely bright individual and actually didn’t need to turn to crime for money.
An interesting twist on the federal case is that the judge ruled that Bitcoin is money. US District Judge Alison Nathan ruled:
Bitcoins are funds within the plain meaning of that term. Bitcoins can be accepted as a payment for goods and services or bought directly from an exchange with a bank account. They therefore function as pecuniary resources and are used as a medium of exchange and a means of payment.
Do you think that Yuri Lebedev squandered his opportunity by being part of a Bitcoin scam? Does such laundering schemes hinder the wider acceptance of cryptocurrency? Let us know in the comments below.
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