A US law originally enacted in 1992 was just used to sentence Mark Alexander Hopkins, also known as Doctor Bitcoin and the handle Rizzn, to federal prison. Last week, the crypto enthusiast posted a lengthy Twitter thread about the charges and describing an FBI raid on their home.
"I'm going offline for an indeterminate amount of time," Hopkins said online. "I'm headed down to Beaumont FCI, where Uncle Sam will be footing the bill for my room and board for the next 6 to 15 months for the crime of selling #Bitcoin a few years ago."
In Hopkins' telling, he acted as an over-the-counter Bitcoin trader. Blockchain site Cointelegraph describes over-the-counter crypto traders and companies as entities that "facilitate purchases and sales of crypto by both individuals and companies" — basically, the trade or sale that happens outside of a big marketplace like Coinbase.
Hopkins said the FBI raided his home and tried to implicate his wife in the same case, but ultimately dropped the charges against any family members in exchange for a plea deal.
It's worth mentioning that while Hopkins didn't commit any fraud, the US Department of Justice said his actions enabled a scammer who committed fraud with funds Hopkins transacted on her behalf.
"According to plea papers, Mr. Hopkins admitted he ran a business that converted U.S. dollars to cryptocurrency, primarily Bitcoin, for a fee," a DOJ filing in late June stated. "He frequently sent BTC to customers’ crypto wallets without taking additional steps in verifying the source of the cash, he admitted."
On the one hand, if everyone on the blockchain could be prosecuted for simply coming into contact with funds adjacent to scams, prisons would fill up quickly. After all, one NFT marketplace admitted as many as 80 percent of its transactions are spam or fraud in January this year.
On the other, though, it does seem like most people exchanging cash for crypto funds while ignoring rules around documentation probably have a sense that many of their customers are not engaged in aboveboard activities.
In his Twitter thread, Hopkins called for more clarity around financial laws that govern the blockchain, and we've got to agree.
More on crypto fraud: Missing Crypto CEO Who Stole User Funds Arrested, Facing 40,000 Years in Prison