‘Bitcoin Maven’ Sentenced To One Year In Federal Prison In Multi-Million Dollar Bitcoin Money Laundering Case

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Theresa Lynn Tetley, also as “Bitcoin Maven” or “Bitcoin.Maven,” is a 50-year=old former Southern California stockbroker who became one of the biggest names in the world of Bitcoin, not always for the best reasons. On Localbitcoins.com, Tetley had a 100 percent positive feedback score as a trader on her profile, as well as stating that she had made exchanges of between 250 and 500 Bitcoin. At the time her account was closed by the authorities, she had over 100 confirmed trades with 194 partners. All told, that amounted to somewhere in the range of $6 million to $9.5 million worth of transactions. Tetley also did “off the books” transactions for amounts that are unknown.

Tetley ran a Bitcoin-for-cash exchange, which is what the U.S. government was tipped off to and pursued her for, according to Gizmodo. While it is perfectly legal to exchange Bitcoin for cash, Tetley did so without a license, or reporting any income from it. Once the Department of Justice (DoJ) caught wind of what was going on, it took some time to start building a case against her, but by 2016 they had the DEA on board in what became a long running take down based not only on buys, but the knowledge of illegal activity and FinCEN “Know Your Customers” violations, according to DeepDotWeb.

In what played out as a two-person sting, trades began small, until the second party was introduced and larger trades became a regular occurrence. The transactions were often setup at coffee shops or Trader Joe’s, where Tetley would hand over brown paper bags of cash to facilitate the transactions. As the sting progressed, the second buyer began making it known to Tetley that he had drug money he needed to clean quickly, and Tetley acknowledged that, and then charged a steeper exchange rate for the service. The government used that against her to demonstrate there was no misunderstanding of what she was doing, as she realized the value of her service by charging the higher rate on those transactions.

When there were enough exchanges made with Tetley to bring forward an airtight case, U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real of the Central District of California sentenced Tetley to 366 days in prison, forfeiture of 40 Bitcoin and $292,264 in U.S. currency, along with paying a $20,000 fine and the surrender of an undisclosed amount of gold bars, according to Ars Techinca. The charges Tetley pleaded to were one count of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business and one count of money laundering, according to Justice.gov.