A man named Mark Alexander Hopkins has pleaded guilty to federal charges of running a bitcoin money transmitting business without a license.
Hopkins May Have Misused His Bitcoin Knowledge
Hopkins is described as one of the largest crypto marketers in North Texas and is often referred to as “Dr. Bitcoin” due to his alleged knowledge of the asset and its respective space. As was revealed in court, Hopkins reportedly used his knowledge of bitcoin to work with a Nigerian lottery scammer as a means of hiding funds illicitly.
Hopkins had first been contacted by the scammer two years ago in 2019. While the full name of the scammer has not yet been revealed, the individual goes by the initials M.H. according to court documents. The scammer had spoken with Hopkins about converting his lottery winnings to bitcoin, hoping that this would prevent the money from being traceable by law enforcement.
While Hopkins had initially sought not to get involved, he ultimately provided advice to the scammer and explained that keeping transactions under $9,500 would lessen his chances of getting caught. It is believed that the scammer converted anywhere between $500,000 and $1.5 million of his money to bitcoin over the course of 12 months.
According to the charges, Hopkins was not registered as a money transfer business, nor had he filed the appropriate paperwork that would have allowed him to perform such actions. Acting U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah explained in a recent statement:
This defendant ignored federal law and allowed fraudsters to use bitcoin to operate under the radar of law enforcement. We are determined to rid the bitcoin marketplace of anyone who knowingly helps criminal actors stash illegal profits inside crypto wallets.
Matthew Orwig, an attorney with the firm Winston & Strawn, also put his two cents into the mix, mentioning in an interview:
For a long time, there have been laws regarding currency transactions, and now they have been updated to include cryptocurrency, bitcoins and the like. It is, itself, criminal, but what the government is really interested in are the people and the entities behind these transactions that are using cryptocurrency to launder money or to conceal criminal activity.
Hopkins is now looking at a possible five-year prison term upon sentencing.
A History of Crime
One of the big problems associated with the crypto space is how much crime occurs within its borders. The digital currency arena has long been marred by cyberthieves, hackers and malicious actors that seek to get their fingers on digital currencies they have not earned.
Among the biggest incidents in the history of the digital currency space include Mt. Gox and Coincheck – two exchanges stationed in Japan that saw more than $1 billion in crypto funds disappear – and more recently Africrypt, which experienced a heavy loss of more than $3.6 billion in digital funds.