According to the filing in the District Court for the Southern District of Florida, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent Drew Gizzi alleged Aquino-Eufracia was part of “a large-scale, international Money Laundering Organization” (MLO), with individuals based in New Jersey, Florida, the Dominican Republic and other unnamed locations.
The U.S. arrested an alleged money launderer Tuesday in Florida on accusations of using cryptocurrencies and cashier’s checks to obfuscate the origins of funds related to drug-running.
First noted by George Washington University’s Seamus Hughes, the complaint, unsealed Wednesday, charges Pedro Antonio Aquino-Eufracia with conspiracy for allegedly participating in a drug cartel, laundering funds using a combination of cashier’s checks and cryptocurrencies.
“The investigation, including a review of lawfully obtained mobile communications and other electronic evidence, has revealed that on at least two occasions in April and May, 2018, Aquino-Eufracia agreed to accept large sums of cash drug proceeds from a co-conspirator and then converted the cash into virtual currency,” Gizzi said.
The document noted that “bitcoins are generated and controlled through computer software operating via a decentralized, peer-to-peer network,” and that bitcoin primarily exists “as units of an internet-based form of currency.”
“A high-ranking member” of the organization allegedly told Aquino-Eufracia to deposit the undisclosed crypto into specific wallets, with the organization hoping to obfuscate the details of the cash proceeds.
The complaint did not specify a dollar value for the crypto allegedly used to launder the funds or which cryptocurrencies were used, although bitcoin (BTC) was included.
According to Gizzi, law enforcement officials seized nearly $200,000 in dollars from co-conspirators in July 2018. Overall, he alleges that “millions of dollars in cash drug proceeds” have been laundered.
An arrest warrant for Aquino-Eufracia was signed by a federal judge in New Jersey on Feb. 14 and sealed until Feb. 19, following his arrest. In addition to the DEA, the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal division participated in the investigation.
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Norwegian Air May Allow Customers to Pay With Crypto as Soon as Spring
Travelers on Norwegian Air, one of the largest airlines in Europe, will soon be able to pay for flights using cryptocurrency.
In an interview with a local business newspaper, Norwegian Block Exchange (NBX) CEO Stig Kjos-Mathisen said his crypto trading platform had successfully developed payment infrastructure that will allow customers on Norwegian Air to purchase tickets with digital assets.
“Everything is ready to go from our side”, Kjos-Mathisen said in the interview. NBX aims to roll out the new feature to Norwegian customers sometime later this year, possibly as early as the spring.
Kjos-Mathisen is the son-in-law of Bjørn Kjos, the founder and CEO of Norwegian Air, who has been involved in NBX since it launched in 2019. The plan has always been to use the exchange to offer cryptocurrency support for airline ticket purchases.
In September, one of the oldest banks in Norway acquired a 16.3 percent in NBX for a reported $1.6 million. The exchange opened for beta users last September and is now accepting general customers.
Founded in 1993, Norwegian Air Shuttle is the largest airline in Scandinavia and the third-largest low-cost airline in Europe. It flies to destinations all across Europe and North Africa, as well as selected cities in the Americas.
Following extensive cost cuts, the company reported its best-ever quarterly result last October, with a pre-tax profit of 2.2 billion Norwegian kroner (roughly US$215 million). The airline carried over 37 million passengers in 2018, its highest ever figure within a single year.
It is unclear so far which digital assets will be supported on NBX or for ticket payments. The founder’s son, Lars Ola Kjors, is believed to have bought 3.5 million NOK ($404,000) worth of bitcoin (BTC) in 2017 before the cryptocurrency hit its all-time high of around $20,000.