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Monday February 24th, 2020 6:32AM

Florida bitcoin processing boss gets 5 1/2 years in prison

By The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — A Florida man was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison by a judge who said he used a "pyramid of lies" to boost a business that helped criminals process millions of dollars in illegal bitcoin transactions.

Anthony Murgio, of Tampa, pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiracy charges, admitting he knew he was acting illegally when he enticed friends and family members, including his father, to help him operate a crooked money exchange business.

"I screwed up badly," he said in court Tuesday.

His father, a former Palm Beach County, Florida, school board member, also has pleaded guilty in the scheme.

U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan in Manhattan noted that Murgio's victims included a federal credit union that served a low-income community in Lakewood, New Jersey.

Prosecutors said the 110-member once-healthy credit union was forced into liquidation after 36 years after Murgio and his friends made $162,000 in "donations" and "consulting fees" to a local church in a corrupt deal to take control of the credit union and process more than $60 million in transactions for their illegal activities.

The judge called Murgio's greed-driven plans "dangerous and destructive" criminal conduct.

"Mr. Murgio led his co-conspirators in a pyramid of lies," the judge said.

Through sobs, Murgio, 33, apologized for involving friends and family members as many of them cried from the first row of spectator benches.

"I'm sorry for all the damage I've caused to so many people," he said. "I put myself above the law."

He said the prosecution had given him perspective.

"Money comes and goes," he said. "The satisfaction you get from helping somebody's life is not even in the same universe as making $50,000 in a transaction."

Prosecutors said Murgio processed more than $10 million in illegal bitcoin transactions from April 2013 through July 2015.

Murgio, his father and another man admitted roles in operating a phony Florida-based business called the Collectables Club. Authorities said the business allowed criminals to buy bitcoins to launder their money under the pretense they were buying stamps and sports memorabilia.

Prosecutors had requested Murgio serve more than a decade in prison.

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