San Diego-based business managers Aidan Curry and Connor Brooke pleaded guilty in federal court Monday for conspiring to launder dark web proceeds through their unlicensed online business, which sold cryptocurrency in exchange for cash.
The defendants' business, BayCoins, sold Bitcoin, a type of cryptocurrency, to the public in cash for a premium. Curry and Booke described their website as the “Craigslist of Bitcoin.”
Cryptocurrency like Bitcoin is used by buyers and sellers on online black markets, also known as the dark web, to keep their transactions anonymous. Before someone can use their cryptocurrency, they must convert it into “real” currency like the U.S. Dollar. A common way to do so is through an unlicensed money transmitting business that exchanges cryptocurrency for cash, which was the function of BayCoins.
Curry and Brooke generated significant cryptocurrency profits from BayCoins, which they used to fund their acquisition, sale, and distribution of marijuana on various Dark Web marketplaces. After receiving payment for the marijuana, Curry and Booke would sell their cryptocurrency for additional profit through BayCoins.
“Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agents worked diligently to uncover this Dark Web scheme led by Curry and Brooke,” said Nick Annan, special agent in charge of HSI in San Diego. “The investigation resulting in today’s guilty plea is an excellent example of the commitment and partnership between HSI and prosecutors to seek out individuals and criminal networks who try to conceal their illicit activities under the cloak of the Dark Web.”
As part of their guilty pleas, the defendants agreed to turn over tens of thousands of dollars worth of cash, cryptocurrency, and high-end hardware including computers, phones, hard drives, and storage devices that were used in the money laundering conspiracy.
Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 6, 2020. Curry and Brooke both face a maximum of 20 years in prison.