A Russian national who founded the cryptocurrency exchange Bitzlato will be arraigned Wednesday on charges of illegally transmitting $700 million, the Justice Department announced. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 18 (UPI) -- A Russian national who founded the cryptocurrency exchange Bitzlato will be arraigned Wednesday on charges of illegally transmitting $700 million, the Justice Department announced.
Anatoly Legkodymov, 40, was arrested in Miami on Tuesday night and will appear in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. He is the founder, majority owner and senior executive of Bitzlato Ltd., which is based in Hong Kong.
Legkodymov is a resident of Shenzhen, China.
Bitzlato allegedly allowed its users to use its services with loose restrictions. This allowed users to create accounts based on false information, which they used to engage in transactions with an "illicit" black market called Hydra Market.
Hydra Market is a black market platform where narcotics, stolen personal and financial information and money laundering services can be procured. The Justice Department said it is the "largest and longest running darknet market in the world."
Hydra was shut down by a cooperative effort between U.S. and German law enforcement agencies last April.
Bitzlato users exchanged an estimated $700 million in cryptocurrency for illegal activities with Hydra until it was closed.
The Justice Department alleges Legkodymov knew of the criminal activities carried out by Bitzlato's users and communicated directly with users who were "known to be crooks." He disregarded warnings from other executives about the dangers of allowing these activities to continue because he did not want to sacrifice profits.
Bitzlato's website has been shut down with agencies throughout the world taking aim at its infrastructure. Agencies from Spain, Portugal, France and Europol have also taken action against the exchange.
If Legkodymov is convicted, he faces five years in prison.
"Institutions that trade in cryptocurrency are not above the law and their owners are not beyond our reach," said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York, in the press release.
"As alleged, Bitzlato sold itself to criminals as a no-questions-asked cryptocurrency exchange, and reaped hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of deposits as a result. The defendant is now paying the price for the malign role that his company played in the cryptocurrency ecosystem."