Former CEO Carl Ferrer of the now seized has plead guilty to conspiracy and money laundering according to court records.

On March 28th, 2018 former Backpage executives James Larkin, former owner Michael Lacey, COO Andrew Padill, and four others were also indicted on 93-counts.

In a plea agreement Ferrer admits he laundered money using industry exchange services including Coinbase, Kraken, and Paxful.

"I also conspired with other Backpage principals (including but not limited to M.L, J.L, S.S., J.B., and DH.) to engage in various money laundering offenses ... worked with my co-conspirators to find ways to fool credit card companies into believing that Backpage-associated charges were being incurred on different websites, to route Backpage-related payments and proceeds through bank accounts held in the name of seemingly unconnected entities ... and to use companies (including but not limited to Coinbase, GoCoin, Paxful, Kraken, and Capital) for similar purposes."

Backpage began accepting bitcoin, at one point exclusively, for ad placements on it's classified ads service which gave Paxful a boost when it first arrived on the industry scene in 2015 after Paxful engaged directly with Backpage to allow its users to send bitcoin directly to Backpage from Paxful and facilitated the process with online helpers to assist in the process and non-bank payment methods such as gift-cards and pre-paid debit cards.

Last Friday, and over a dozen variations of Backpage owned domains were all seized by authorities.

In the plea agreement Ferrer also admits he and other executives at the company knew that the advertisement were in fact for prostitution.

Shocker there.

Industry Effects

Paxful explains their realization of the problem for which their platform initially provided a solution in a medium post from 2016 and at one point were single highhandedly responsible for about 5% of all daily bitcoin transaction volume and whereas the platform is no longer centrally focused on Backpage, you can still locate Backpage help on the website.

Other platforms quickly jumped in after Paxful including WallofCoins, BitQuick, and even Circle at one point in addition to a dozen or more "backpage credit" websites that directly transmitted customer funds to backpage (platforms like Paxful or Circle did not transmit funds, the users transmitted funds themselves from their own wallet).

Up until Backpage was seized, this was a steady stream of bitcoin buyers for vendors some of which have reported up to a 50% decline in sales since the seize. These seem to be predominately some Paxful vendors and websites directly targeting backpage users with the aforementioned "backpage credit" services.

Additionally according to Ferrer's plea agreement, some of these same platforms are likely to see a decline in bitcoin purchasing opportunity whereas Backpage swapped their bitcoin for cash or bank transfers/wires in their apparent money laundering scheme.

Notably, all of the "backpage credit" websites we looked up were no longer functioning or all together shutdown.

To name a few: (not operation) (still some residue of what was once a site)

On a final note, whereas this is being touted as a victory by the Department of Justice and as far as human trafficking goes, most would agree, however, there are always other victims. According to media outlets, the demise of Backpage has been devastating for some, taking away their sole source of income to survive. 

Despite anyone's opinion of the trade or the legality of "sex workers" in most states in the Unites States being unfavorable, it's not illegal everywhere in the US nor is it illegal in the majority of North America for that matter. It's legal in Canada to sell sex (what Backpage advertisers were allegedly doing) and it's completely legal in Mexico as well as large portion of the world.   

This is not to condone nor condemn the practice, but to merely point out that there are many people affected in the actions of authorities who may have done more harm than good. Very much like the blockchain can actually be use to help law enforcement track illegal transactions as they otherwise could not do with cash, Backpage could have been a tool to help combat human trafficking being the largest online platform where this type of thing was present (according to authorities).

In fact, Backpage has reported hundreds of potential cases and indeed worked with authorities on this matter in the past. 

There's an article on the Daily Beast that discussed this very topic in great detail published in 2017 titled Backpage is Bad, Banning it Would Be Worse, the latter being the current reality where the ones authorities are attempting to stop have scattered to various places across the internet and dark web as a result of the shutdown and that .... may well have just made things much worse. 

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As we reported in 2017, a Localbitcoins trader was arrested on charges of operating an unlicensed money services business and money laundering. Mario Costanzo, aka. MorpheusTitania, was convicted of money laundering.

Costanzo hasn't logged in to the Locabitcoins platform in over 11 months according to his profile and for apparent reasons of the legal fight which has resulted in a loss and conviction for the bitcoin trader. 

He and associate Peter Steinmetz were arrest in April of 2017 and indicted on 7 counts of unlicensed operation and money laundering with an Costanzo indicted on an 8th count related to marijuana  and felony ammunition possession.

It would appear that the possession charges had something to do with the arrest in the first place, however the details of the case indicate this was yet another case of "legal entrapment" where federal agencies setup a trader and persuaded the individual(s) to break the law so that they could then arrest the men.

This is a scenario we've seen played out time and time again over the past couple years where many cases are supported by only the federal agencies actions of putting an individual in a situation where a law is violated. 

In one case in 2017, it was only the HSI's transactions that combined to exceed a threshold high enough to charge Kevin Klein with a crime that would result in a penalty that would have otherwise been unlikely to even register as a blip on FinCEN's radar.

In other words, Klein's excessive transactions predominately, if not entirely, consisted of transactions conducted with the United States federal government. 

For that, he's on probation for the next 3 years among other penalties and it can be argued that this is unfair to citizens of the United States where it's federal agencies are targeting otherwise harmless individuals who never intended to break any laws.

Meanwhile, those who are committing crimes of this nature are nowhere to be seen, much less apprehended.

Costanzo Broke the Law

According to court documents and the DOJ (Dept. of Justice), specifically the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, Costanzo's case is not one of the Klein flavor, rather he intentionally broke the law and laundered money using bitcoin. He purchases illegal narcotics using bitcoin and knowingly washed cashed by exchanging drug money for bitcoin.

When undercover HSI agents first approached Costanzo, they flat out told him that they were drug dealers to which he responded that bitcoin was a great way to limit their exposure to law enforcement.

Obviously Costanzo's current situation is not without it's irony and that statement is one that'll likely haunt him for many years to come. 

Entrapment or Not Entrapment

As we've reported before, this is unfortunately not considered entrapment even though it would appear otherwise.

Entrapment requires law enforcement officers to persuade an individual into doing something he or she would otherwise not do. For example, had the convinced him to steal a car and deliver it to an address for which he'd receive $40,000 in compensation. That would be a case of entrapment if Costanzo had no history of car theft or theft of any kind. It's rather possible that had authorities never talked him into stealing the car, he'd have never done it.

United States Vs. John Delorean is a textbook example of entrapment whereas federal agencies offered a cocaine related deal to Delorean, who was in serious financial trouble at the time, of which he accepted. Delorean was acquitted of the drug trafficking charges due to "police entrapment" whereas authorities randomly targeted a financially vulnerable Delorean who had no criminal history and would have likely never partaken in the activity had it not been suggested to him by authorities and a neighbor, James Timothy Hoffman.

This is not the case with Costanzo who was selling bitcoin, well known for it's money laundering potential, was caught with narcotics, and was on probation for a felony narcotics charge. In Costanzo's case, it can be realistically perceived that he would have engaged in activity of this kind with anyone and according to court document, the evidence presented in the case indicated that he did, ultimately concluding with a conviction on 5 counts.

Each count of money laundering carries a penalty of up to $250,00 in fines, 20 years in prison, or both.

Additionally, Costanzo will lose all of his bitcoin so the federal government can auction off more bitcoins for millions of more dollars of money that doesn't belong to them.

That's legal of course. They can steal Costanzo's property and legally get away with it. It's legal theft to go along with their legal entrapment. Although instead of "theft", they call it "civil forfeiture".

"Civil forfeiture" has a better ring to the federal mind since "forfeiture" sounds as if Costanzo just gave away coins rather than Costanzo's property being taken from him against his will. Which is theft in all actuality and would be called theft in any other circumstance anywhere else on earth. 

How is that legal again? 

It doesn't matter at this point. It wouldn't appear as if Costanzo will ever see the light of day again anyway, much less have time to play with his bitcoins. 

Notably Peter Steinetz's charges were dropped with prejudice. Given the outcome of the Costanzo case, Steinmetz's days in court my not be over after all.

You can read the DOJ's complete announcement on their website.

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Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, has predicted bitcoin will become the worlds currency within as soon as the next 10 years.

Dorsey stated in an interview that bitcoin will take the U.S. dollar's place in global finance, becoming the primary currency for payments.

"The world ultimately will have a single currency, the internet will have a single currency. I personally believe that it will be bitcoin." - Dorsey

Dorsey also heads payment company Square, who's involvement in bitcoin has been a hot/cold relationship but Dorsey proclaimed himself as a bitcoin investor.

The prediction is certainly along the lines of what bitcoin enthusiasts have been promoting for years and as we have stated in the past, for bitcoin to really become the global currency the price needs to be around $1 million USD per bitcoin. 

Bitcoin may not be the world's currency currently, but adoption is certainly at an all time high after Decembers spike in mainstream interest. 

However, as Dorsey stated in the interview, there's a few technical issues for bitcoin to overcome for this to happen. 

You can read the full Times interview on their website.

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The mainstream media once again has everyone up to their eyeballs is doom and gloom over the Truump ban on petro, a Cryptocurrency produced by the government of Venezuela and how The United States is cracking down on coin.

The United States has been cracking down on virtual currency since 2013.

This is nothing of that nature, this the Trump show and he's flexing a muscle with an executive order specifically banning the coin to enforce the heavily financially sanctioned country of Venezuala and many of its officials.

Trump isn't alone either, multiple government officials have approved of the move. Senator Bob Menendez said in a statement regarding petro:

"I welcome the Administration’s imposition of additional sanctions to block Maduro’s efforts to further drown Venezuela in debt and suffering. Maduro created the Venezuelan state-backed Petro cryptocurrency to explicitly circumvent U.S. sanctions and to paper over the financial calamity he inflicted on his country. Beyond sanctions evasion, the Petro was hand-tailored to perpetuate the money laundering and plundering of public resources that has tragically led Venezuela to economic ruin. With an unprecedented level of Venezuelan refugees fleeing their country amidst this growing humanitarian crisis that threatens to destabilize neighboring nations, the international community must continue coordinated efforts to increase pressure on the Maduro regime.”U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Made in Venezuela

The truth be told, nobody in the United States really makes an effort to transact with Venezuela anyway.

Venezuala is one of only 14 or so countries on the US sanctions list which include Sudan, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, etc... Bitcoin traders (meaning virtual currency dealers/traders in general) clear each transaction they conduct through OFAC and this is predominately limited to individuals or companies that match restricted lists.

However, the handful of countries on the sanctions list are typically avoided all together because it's difficult to specifically know who you're actually dealing, they may be an FSE and the United States require vendors to have a very specific license to transact with sanctioned countries.

This is particularly a concern with FSE (Foreign Sanction Evaders) lists which contains a group of individuals and entities who strategically develop schemes to avoid detection and conduct transactions where they would otherwise be sanctioned.

This is not to say a trader could not conduct a legal transaction with a citizen of Venezuala. There are many citizens not directly under the sanction of whom transaction can legally be conducted with. However, it's just to say that in general, restricted countries when heavily sanctioned.

"The White House cracks down on cryptocurrency" makes a good headline that attracts readers to the mainstream outlets, and industry ones for that matter, but beyond the headlines and suspicions there's nothing more than the United States further enforcing sanctions that have been in place for years. In this case it's also been reported that Russia helps Venezuala develop the coin, which Russia of course denied, further mucking up the waters of foreign affairs.

The political reasons for this are important, sure, and sanctions aren't worth a shit if they are not enforced and given continued ongoing pressure, but outside of that, there's really 0 affect on the industry here.

In that regard and to be completely frank, who really cares?

Seriously, is anyone in the US crying today if they can't purchase petro? Unlikely. It's got to be one of the biggest "ShitCoins" to bit the market to date and likely a massive scam that's really selling "oil futures" to compensate for poor performance and production.

Besides, and the number one point to make here... who in this industry would really want a coin developed and controlled by any government in the first place?

Case in point.

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On February 6th, 2018 we embarked on a little game of "let's see" after multiple banks banned using their credit and debit products from being used to purchase virtual currency.

They stated that it's for their customers "protection". That preventing customers from buying bitcion will "protect" them from losing their money.

The full details of the game and how/why we started this journey can be found this article.

In a nutshell, we felt we needed to hold them accountable and keep an eye on how much they are "saving" customers with this noble act of self-sacrifice. In other words, we plan to show that they're full of shit and have done nothing more than adopted a CYA (cover-your-ass) policy in their ongoing war on bitcoin.

At the one month mark, have banks saved us from the "evils of bitcoin" in its ban?


One Month Review

You can jump straight to the game and view the full details along with every transaction as recorded here:

Bank Protection Game

To summarize the one month mark:

In just a handful of trade beginning on February 6th, we managed to earn over $4,900 USD trading bitcoin on a regular exchange with 0.25% trade fees.

To be fair, the banks are on our heels with their product earnings. They've earned us 63 cents (BofA) and a whopping $1.25 (Capital One) via a 3 year fixed CD and a Money Market account respectively.

On February 6th, 2018 we put $1000 in a Capitol One MM account, $1000 in a BofA fixed rate CD and $1000 in another commodity, Gold, which banks aren't protecting us from. We put an equal amount of $3000 into virtual currency, choosing bitcoin for all trades thus far.

The details of one month of transactions are as follows.

183/05/2018Sell$3,000.00$7,998.414  bitcoinbitcoin  0.25%($20.00)$11,647.20686.7237564mBTC$7,978.41$4,978.41
193/06/2018Int$1,000.00$1000.002  BofACD (3YR)  0.75%--1000USD$1000.63$0.63
203/06/2018Int$1,000.00$1000.003  Capital OneMoney Market  1.5%--10

To date, we've conducted a few more trades putting our total earnings at $5925.52, meaning banks have "protected" us negative ($5,925,52).

To be fair, sure, we'd have still had that $3000 in the bank accounts, and had we put in in Capital One's MM account, we'd have earned about $3.75 USD, so there is that claim they can still make, but had we listened or obeyed this ban, we'd be out nearly $6,000 in losses thanks to their "protection".

I'm assuming at some point the banks "protection" is going to kick in and the brainchild of this brilliant plan is going to be realized, earning this individual or group a shiny metal? Is that how this works?

We're not sure on that one, however, what we can see is the data as we've recorded every single transaction thus far and that shows us that banks are very far in the red as far as what they have protected anyone investing $3000 into bitcoin in Feb through today.

Bank can say whatever line of garbage they want to and package it up with a pretty bow, but the data doesn't lie.

You can watch the game via the link above or on the sidebar there's a new widget with the amount in USD banks are "protecting" us from losing.

Either we're missing something or as suspected, banks are just full of it.

As previously reported, we intend to continue this game for the next year and see where we're at on February 6th, 2019.

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Banking giant BBVA released a statement involving Ripple tests being successful.

BBVA claims successful tests using XRP for cross-border transactions where using the Ripple platform reduced a 3-4 day turnaround for money transfers to a matter of seconds.

“We think something really big is happening in this sector, and we want to be at the forefront. A successful string of moves can possibly catapult BBVA into the public eye within the US financial services sector.” - Onur Genc, BBVA Compass CEO

Ripple price is currently around 65 cents USD, which was over $2 at the beginning of the year.

Ripple's blockchain solution is a private one, meaning only involved banks act as nodes rather than a global base of nodes, which has both advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages being that for banks, they have control over transactions for compliance reasons, but lack security and immutability a global blockchain like bitcoin or Ethereum would provide. 

Regardless, a private blockchain may not be as secure as a global chain, but is still better than current traditional systems and for that reason, this is good news nonetheless. 

About Ripple

Ripple is a blockchain solution for cross-borer payments who received $750,000 in fines imposed by FinCEN in 2015 and powers it blockchain with the cryptocurrency of the same name, Ripple (XRP).

Self-stated, "Ripple provides one frictionless experience to send money globally using the power of blockchain. By joining Ripple’s growing, global network, financial institutions can process their customers’ payments anywhere in the world instantly, reliably and cost-effectively. Banks and payment providers can use the digital asset XRP to further reduce their costs and access new markets."

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