A US federal court ruled that Bitcoin is a form of “money” covered under the District of Columbia’s (D.C.) Money Transmitter Act. The conclusion is part of a criminal action involving the U.S. versus Larry Dean Harmon, who operated a Bitcoin mixing platform.
U.S. Court Regards Bitcoin as Money in Charges Against Helix Operator
In the U.S., financial regulators have used to debate over the status of Bitcoin as a commodity or security. A federal court set a precedent when it called Bitcoin “money” and said it was covered under Washington, D.C., Money Transmitters Act (MTA).
This enabled it to decline the dismissal of criminal charges against Larry Dean Harmon, who ran a Bitcoin mixing service that helped clients launder money obtained illegally. Harmon is charged with operating an unlicensed money transmitting business under D.C. law.
Harmon was targeting potential clients through the Dark Net and other underground channels, promoting his service, called Helix, as a Bitcoin tumbler, i.e., a platform that mixed the cryptocurrency to leave no trace of where it comes from. Such a platform would be used drug dealers, gun traffickers, and hackers like the one who fraudulently obtained over $100,000 by hacking into high-profile Twitter accounts.
He was indicted by a federal grand jury last year. Still, he rejected the accusations related to illegal-money-transmission, claiming that Bitcoin isn’t “money” under the MTA, and thus his platform wasn’t money transmitting business under the U.S. law.
Nevertheless, Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell wrote for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that money “commonly means a medium of exchange, method of payment, or store of value.”
“Bitcoin is these things,” he concluded. The court stated that the D.C. law adopts that meaning even though it doesn’t officially define “money.”
Helix Handled Over 350K BTC Between 2014 and 2017
The indictment said that the service has managed to exchange the equivalent of about $311 million in the four years to 2017. This valuation represented 354,468 Bitcoin moved on behalf of clients. Today, that amount is worth over $3.3 billion.
Harmon advertised his platform as a method to hide drugs, guns, and other illegal transactions. He told clients that there was no way for the U.S. law enforcement could distinguish the Helix addresses, as the platform used new addresses for every transaction.
Interestingly, Harmon sought to recoup 160 Bitcoin seized by the government, but the court denied his motion.