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Santa Monica Man Sentenced in Bitcoin Money-Laundering Scheme


Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Lookout Staff

January 17, 2024 -- A Santa Monica man who helped launder millions of dollars through his crypocurency exchange was sentenced to four months in federal prison Wednesday.

Charles Randol, 33, who faced as many as five years behind bars, will also serve two years of supervised release, according to the U.S. Attorneys office.

The sentencing comes after Randol pleaded guilty in September to a federal charge of "failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering (AML) program" under a plea agreement.

In his plea agreement, Randol admitted he "repeatedly violated federal law and his company’s own AML (anti-money laundering) policies" by taking steps to conceal the suspicious exchanges from law enforcement.

According to the agreement, from October 2017 to July 2021 Randol -- who owned and operated what was eventually known as Digital Coin Strategies LLC -- allowed scammers and drug traffickers to launder money through exchange services he advertised on various websites.

Randol completed transactions by controlling and operating a network of automated kiosks in malls, gas stations and convenience stores in cities in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties, according to prosecutors.

He also completed the transactions, which exceeded $10,000, via anonymous in-person meetings with customers and after receiving hundreds of large cash shipments in the mail to locations he controlled in or around Los Angeles, prosecutors said.

"The cash was often packaged in a suspicious manner, including cash hidden inside children’s books, concealed inside fake birthday or holiday presents, buried within puzzle pieces, or wrapped within multiple magazines."

"Once Randol received the parcel, he would count the money and send an equivalent amount of Bitcoin -- minus a commission -– to a digital wallet controlled by his customers," prosecutors said.

He completed the transactions "without requesting a name, proof of identity, Social Security number, or any other information about the buyer or the source of the funds being exchanged," prosecutors said.

In three specific transactions he admitted to engaging in from October 2020 to January 2021, Randol exchanged a total of $273,940 in cash for Bitcoin, according to the plea agreement.

Under the Bank Secrecy Act and his company’s AML policy, Randol was required to "verify the identity of customers engaging in transactions over $9,999."

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