NEW YORK – U.S. prosecutors are expected to obtain their second guilty plea in a case related to what they say was an illegal bitcoin exchange owned by an Israeli behind a series of hacking attacks on organizations such as JPMorgan Chase & Co.
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Prosecutors in a letter filed in Manhattan federal court said Michael Murgio of Florida will plead guilty on Thursday after being charged for participating in a scheme to pay bribes to let the bitcoin exchange's operators gain control of a credit union.
Under a plea agreement, Murgio has agreed to plead guilty to a single count of making a false statement to the U.S. National Credit Union Administration, said Stuart Kaplan, his lawyer said on Wednesday.
Murgio was added as a defendant in April in a case against others including his son Anthony Murgio, who prosecutors say operated the unlicensed bitcoin exchange, Coin.mx, and was involved in the bribe scheme.
His plea would be the second in the case, after another Florida man, Jose Freundt, pleaded guilty on Oct. 13 to charges including that he conspired to operate Coin.mx as an unlicensed money transmitting business.
Prosecutors have said Coin.mx was owned by Gery Shalon, an Israeli accused of orchestrating a massive hacking scheme with another Israeli, Ziv Orenstein, and an American, Joshua Samuel Aaron.
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Prosecutors contend Shalon, Orenstein and Aaron ran a criminal enterprise that hacked into a dozen companies' networks, stealing the personal information of more than 100 million people.
In the case of JPMorgan, prosecutors said records belonging to more than 83 million customers had been stolen.
While the Murgios are not accused of engaging in the hacking offenses, prosecutors said they committed crimes with their co-defendants, Florida resident Yuri Lebedev and New Jersey pastor Trevon Gross, related to the unlicensed operation of Coin.mx.
Prosecutors said beginning in 2013, Anthony Murgio operated Coin.mx, which exchanged millions of dollars of the virtual currency bitcoin for customers, while Lebedev supervised computer programing functions for the exchange.
To evade scrutiny of Coin.mx, the Murgios and Lebedev in 2014 acquired control of Helping Other People Excel Federal Credit Union of Jackson, New Jersey, by paying $150,000 in bribes to its chairman, pastor Trevon Gross, an indictment said.
Anthony Murgio, Lebedev and Gross have pled not guilty. They are scheduled to face trial on Feb. 6.
Shalon and Orenstein pleaded not guilty following their extradition from Israel in June. Aaron is currently in Russia.
The case is U.S. v. Murgio, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 15-cr-00769.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay)