An act designed to add virtual currencies to Florida’s anti-money laundering statutes has unanimously passed three state committees.
Bill Targets ‘Ill-Gotten Gains’ From ‘Internet-Based Currencies’
The bill, sponsored by republican Jose Felix Diaz, “makes sure that traffickers and fraudsters can no longer try to use internet-based currencies to hide and move their ill-gotten gains,” State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a statement quoted by local news resource Miami Herald.
The high-tech criminals of the 21st Century use virtual currencies like bitcoin to accumulate and hide the profits of their illegal activities.
As the Herald notes, the legislation comes hot on the heels of the failed prosecution of Florida resident Michell Espinoza, who allegedly tried to sell $1,500 of bitcoins which were used to purchase stolen credit card information.
Despite his arrest after undercover law officers posed as traders on Localbitcoins, telling Espinoza they intended to use the funds for illicit purposes, a judge ultimately threw out his case as Bitcoin is not considered money under current Florida law.
“This court is unwilling to punish a man for selling his property to another when his actions fall under a statute that is so vaguely written that even legal professionals have difficulty finding a singular meaning,” the ruling determined in July last year.
No Official Identity For Bitcoin In Florida
Fellow Republican Dorothy Hukill meanwhile announced in September that she was seeking official recognition of Bitcoin as a currency in the state, but no progress has yet been made.
The latest motion has ruffled feathers among local cryptocurrency advocates. Barry University economist Charles Evans explained to the Herald how it could send the wrong message.
Florida legislators will be sending a very clear signal that financial innovation is not welcome here… No doubt, officials in China, Europe, Russia, Texas, and other places where Bitcoin is welcome will be pleased.
Others were less concerned, local lawyer Andrew Hinkes claiming authorities would still need to prove intent to use Bitcoin for illegal activities to entail a prosecution.
I don’t think it would affect the day-to-day users of bitcoin, or investors who hold bitcoin… but it might affect the business of those who exchange bitcoin for dollars. Now, assuming the facts support the intent required by law, the path to prosecution of traders for money laundering is clearer in Florida.
The bill is now awaiting its audition before a further state committee.
What do you think about Florida’s latest bill and Bitcoin’s status in the state? Let us know in the comments below!
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Barry University