Man pleads guilty to running unlicensed cryptocurrency business in Houston area, collected more than $500K in Bitcoin within 3 months

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HOUSTON – A 49-year-old out-of-state man has pleaded guilty to running an unlicensed money transmitting business in the Houston area, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced.

Hien Ngoc Vo, of Seattle, Washington, admitted that between March 16, 2016, and June 8, 2016, he operated a prohibited cryptocurrency business.

Vo used Paxful and LocalBitcoins to buy and sell Bitcoin - websites where people can buy and sell cryptocurrencies. He profited from sales by collecting a percentage of the transactions which ranged from 5-30%. During the transactions, Vo did not ask clients for any form of identification nor the purpose for which they were purchasing the cryptocurrency, prosecutors said.

Vo received funds in the form of cash, direct bank deposits, American Express credit cards as well as Amazon and generic gift cards. He used several bank accounts to conduct his business, but the banks shut down the accounts after inquiring about the origination of the funds.

During the course of three months, the unlicensed money transmitting business received and transmitted approximately $515,147.19 in Bitcoin.

Vo faces up to five years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine. Sentencing will be imposed on Sept. 5.

He was permitted to remain on bond pending sentencing.

The FBI conducted the investigation.