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25-year-old pleads guilty to operating unlicensed crypto exchange, money laundering

Celia Wan

A Los Angeles man has agreed to plead guilty to a $25 million money-laundering operation, facilitated in part by a cryptocurrency exchange and a bitcoin ATM he operated. 

Kunal Kalra, known as the “coinman,” was charged on August 23 at the United State District Court for the Central District of California. He agreed to plead guilty to four charges, including operating an unlicensed money transmitting business and money laundering. 

According to a Department of Justice statement , from May 2015 to Oct. 2017, the 25-year-old operated a cryptocurrency exchange without a money transmitter license. The exchange processed transactions between bitcoins and dollars and its clients included drug dealers and other criminals. Kalra also admitted that he has operated an ATM that allowed his customers to exchange bitcoin for cash without revealing their identities. 

The law enforcement agency has seized around $889,000 in cash and 54.3 bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies from Kalra. Kalra could face up to life in prison.