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BitFunder Operator 'Close to' Plea Bargain in SEC Fraud Case

The operator of defunct bitcoin investment platform BitFunder, Jon Montroll, is reportedly seeking a plea bargain over fraud and other charges laid against him by the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (SEC).

FinanceFeeds indicated Thursday that, according to a document submitted by Montroll’s legal counsel, “a plea agreement agreed upon in principle and expected to be finalized and entered by July 23” has accelerated efforts to reach a final court resolution.

Back in February, Montroll was hit with a number of charges for operating what the SEC said was an “unregistered securities exchange” and allegedly using the platform to defraud users of their cryptocurrency.

Separately, Montroll is accused of perjury and obstruction of justice over his failure to report a hack of his second business, WeExchange, in 2013. The breach ultimately saw roughly 6,000 bitcoins stolen – now worth some $68.7 million. The accused reportedly transferred some of his own cryptocurrency holdings to the exchange in an attempt to conceal the losses.

According to the New York Attorneys Office, William F. Sweeney Jr., FBI assistant director-in-charge, commented:

“As alleged, Montroll committed a serious crime when he lied to the SEC during sworn testimony.  In an attempt to cover up the results of a hack that exploited weaknesses in the programming code of his company, he allegedly went to great lengths to prove the balance of bitcoins available to BitFunder users in the WeExchange Wallet was sufficient to cover the money owed to investors. It’s said that honesty is always the best policy – this is yet another case in which this virtue holds true.”

With the anticipated plea deal set to be finalized next week, negotiations between Montroll and the SEC are expected to reach a conclusion in the next three months, if not earlier.

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US Government Arrests Bitcoin Stock Exchange Founder

The owner of BitFunder, a long-defunct, bitcoin-denominated stock exchange, has been arrested by the U.S. government.

The charges against Jon Montroll, also known as “Ukyo,” were unveiled today by the U.S. Justice Department following an investigation that involved the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC is pursuing civil charges against Montroll in a separate action, alleging that he operated an unlicensed securities exchange and defrauded investors.

Montroll was arrested Wednesday, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of New York.

The details of the cases date back to an earlier period in bitcoin’s history when websites like BitFunder – a kind of stock exchange for cryptocurrency companies – were more common. BitFunder was shuttered in late 2013, and acted as a kind of companion service to cryptocurrency exchange WeExchange.

As laid out in the Department of Justice’s complaint, BitFunder was the target of a hacking effort that enabled those behind the attack to credit themselves funds. This resulted in the withdrawal of roughly 6,000 bitcoins from WeExchange, rendering the services insolvent.

Prosecutors allege that, in November 2013, Montroll “provided sworn testimony to the SEC’s New York Regional Office in connection with their investigation into the Exploit and BitFunder’s activities.” As part of that testimony, he submitted a balance statement which reflected “the total number of bitcoins available to BitFunder users in the WeExchange Wallet as of October 13, 2013” that amounted to roughly 6,700 BTC.

Yet that balance sheet statement constituted “a misleading fabrication,” the Justice Department said Wednesday, alleging:

“Contemporaneous digital evidence, including chat logs and transaction data, revealed that the Balance Statement was a misleading fabrication. Three days into the Exploit, [Montroll] had participated in an internet relay chat with another person (“Person-1”) in which he sought help in tracking down “Stolen coins.” When that did not work, [Montroll] transferred some of his own bitcoin holdings into WeExchange to conceal the losses. The Exploit, however, continued. By the time of the Balance Statement, WeExchange actually held thousands of bitcoins less than [Montroll] had asserted through the false Balance Statement.”

Montroll is accused of further misleading SEC staff after being confronted by SEC investigators, according to statements.

“While [Montroll] admitted that the Balance Statement was the product of his manual intervention in the WeExchange system, he claimed to have discovered the success of the Exploit only after the SEC had asked him about it during his first day of testimony and to have no knowledge of the chat with Person-1,” the Department said.

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