Manhattan Judge Latest to Rule that Bitcoin Is Money
In a Sept. 19 ruling in a case over a cyberattacks against JPMorgan Chase and others, a federal judge became the latest to declare that bitcoin qualifies as legal tender. Manhattan District Court Judge Alison Nathan rejected an attempt by Anthony Murgio to dismiss charges that the bitcoin exchange he operated was an unlicensed money transmitting business. Murgio claimed that bitcoin did not fit the definition of “funds,” as described by federal law prohibiting unlicensed money transmitting operations.
In her ruling, Judge Nathan said bitcoin and other digital currency did in fact fit the definition of funds. “Bitcoins can be accepted as a payment for goods and services or bought directly from an exchange with a bank account. They therefore function as pecuniary resources and are used as a medium of exchange and a means of payment,” Nathan wrote, according to Reuters. The decision did not address the six other charges Murgio currently faces.
The ruling is the latest instance of a court declaring that bitcoin should be considered money for legal and regulatory purposes. In 2013, U.S. Magistrate Judge Amos Mazzant made that determination in a case against the allege operator of a bitcoin Ponzi scheme. Manhattan District Judge Jed Rakoff reiterated that interpretation in another case in 2014.
The Manhattan case stems from the July 2015 arrest in Florida of Murgio and Yuri Lebedev for operating Coin.mx, an online bitcoin exchange they allegedly ran from October 2013 to July 2015, in violation several laws. Another owner of the site, Gery Shalon, also is accused of running a scheme targeting a dozen companies, including JPMorgan, and exposing personal data of more than 100 million people as part of a plan that generated hundreds of millions of dollars of profit through pumping up stock prices, online casinos, money laundering and other illegal activity, prosecutors said.