Bitcoins Are Money, Federal Court Rules

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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A federal judge in New York ruled that Bitcoin may be considered money in the context of a federal anti-money laundering statute.

U.S. District Court Judge Alison Nathan rejected a motion Monday by defendant Anthony Murgio to dismiss two charges related to his alleged unlicensed operation of a money-transmitting platform, Murgio and his lawyers moved to have the charges dismissed, arguing Bitcoin could not be considered “funds” within the meaning of the law.

“Bitcoins are funds within the plain meaning of that term,” Nathan wrote. “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.” (RELATED: U.S. Marshals Open Auction For $1.6 Million In Seized Bitcoins)

Authorities allege founder Gery Shalon and several associates ran a computer hacking and fraud syndicate that targeted a dozen companies, including American finance giant JPMorgan.

Courts have split as to whether Bitcoin may be considered money in the ordinary sense. One of Nathan’s colleagues in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Judge Jed Rakoff arrived at the same conclusion in a 2014 ruling. A judge in Florida, Judge Teresa Pooler, reached the opposite conclusion in tossing out a money laundering case. Pooler wrote:

Bitcoin may have some attributes in common with what we commonly refer to as money, but differ in many important aspects. While Bitcoin can be exchanged for items of value, they are not a commonly used used means for exchange. They are accepted by some but not by all merchants or service providers. The value of Bitcoin fluctuates wildly and had been estimated to be eighteen times greater than the U.S. dollar. 

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