Mark Marmilev, the former chief technology officer of the Costa Rica-based centralized digital currency service Liberty Reserve, has been sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay a $250,000 fine, the U.S. Department of Justice reported on Friday.
Authorities said Marmilev, 35, of Brooklyn, New York, was responsible for designing and maintaining the payment processor’s technological infrastructure. He is also said to have advertised Liberty Reserve as a service with no anti-money laundering policies in an effort to get criminals to use it.
The man pleaded guilty in September to his involvement in the massive money laundering scheme. In addition to the prison sentence and the fine, authorities also filed a complaint seeking the forfeiture of Marmilev’s interest in a retail grocery business and a pizzeria located in Brooklyn, New York. Prosecutors believe the man used over $1.6 million from Liberty Reserve to acquire these business interests.
“Marmilev used his technical expertise to create a virtual currency business that was used extensively by criminals throughout the world,” stated Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Marmilev boasted that the crime group was beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement, but he couldn’t have been more wrong. Today’s prison sentence shows that those who hide their illegal activities on-line and off-shore will be caught and sent to prison.”
Before it was shut down by U.S. authorities in May 2013, Liberty Reserve enabled its customers to anonymously conduct illegal transactions and launder money. With over 5 million user accounts, the service processed transactions totaling more than $16 billion, part of which was the result of illegal activities such as computer hacking, payment card fraud, identity theft, child pornography, investment fraud, and narcotics trafficking.
In September, Maxim Chukharev, 28, of Costa Rica, pleaded guilty to his role in the operation of Liberty Reserve. Two other co-defendants, Vladimir Kats and Azzeddine el Amine, have also admitted taking part in the conspiracy.
The founder of Liberty Reserve, Arthur Budovsky, was extradited in October from Spain to the United States, where he faces charges related to the operation of a service used to launder criminal proceeds.
Budovsky was arrested in Spain in May 2013, but he had fought extradition to the U.S. He has denied committing any crimes.