TL;DR: Bitcointopia Inc. founder Morgan Rockoons plead guilty in two bitcoin-related cases, including one connected to his involvement in a Nevada real estate venture. Rockoons fancied himself something of a futurist, and envisioned a “Bitcoin City” based around a Disney-like ideal of combining technology and cryptocurrency. Prosecutors contend he was in fact selling land he did not own.
Bitcointopia Inc Founder Morgan Rockoons Pleads Guilty
This time a year ago, major news outlets were suggesting Morgan Rockoons and his advocacy of bitcoin-related everything would be a precedent setting event, a test case in how far law enforcement would allow cryptocurrency advocates to trade in and out of fiat.
Bitcoin on trial as prolific trader faces laundering charges… https://t.co/PMn5lYqbOA
— DRUDGE REPORT (@DRUDGE_REPORT) March 19, 2018
His eventual plea deal, however, appears to have more to do with business fraud than cryptocurrency in particular. Rockoons was first arrested on charges of money transmission violations without a proper financial license. A transmitter must declare deals over $10,000 and follow know-your-customer (KYC) regulations as dictated by FinCEN and the US Treasury.
Officials insist Rockoons violated the above, operating without a license and exchanging more than $10,000 in fiat, transferring “about $9,200 in bitcoin to the agent for $14,500 in cash, taking the remainder as a transaction fee,” the San Diego Union Tribune noted. He was arrested, let out on bail, remaining defiant about his innocence and the relative absurdity of the charges. It did seem prosecutors were looking to make an example of him.
He doubled down on his activism, however, and while out on bail with charges still hanging over his head Rockoons linked up with a plan to start an idealistic community, a “Bitcoin City,” and set about advertising that fact in video, blogs, and podcasts. By July of last year, his group published the Blockchainist Papers, declaring their independence from the US government.
Bitcointopia Inc was launched, and prosecutors assert he and partners pushed parcels of undeveloped land in Elko County, Nevada, “500 to 1,000-acre plots for 0.5 bitcoin per acre — where he would build a city of the future around cryptocurrency, automation and technology. He was inspired by Walt Disney’s Tomorrowland,” the Union Tribune explained. Law enforcement documented 10 investors gave Rockoons money for land.
MESSAGE FROM MORGAN:
I am going to court on Monday at 2PM, in room 4A, if you support me and my mission to protect Bitcoin & build a Bitcoin City please come to court and show support, it would mean the world to me, PS, Jail Sucks, Love Morgan, From FEDERAL PRISON XO
— Morgan (@NODEfather) January 9, 2019
It turned out to be federally owned land for the most part, and of what remained Rockoons himself owned less than a dozen acres, non-contiguous. Victims in the case claimed more than $45,000 in losses. Upon re-arrest, he seemed to be fighting all allegations, and his trial was set to begin next month.
In mid-January, he tweeted, “Going to be in court today at 2PM-4PM in room 4A for Motions Hearing, was given my second plea deal, will have to make a decision on this to decide my fate, the outcome of the business i created long ago. Pray for me #Bitcoin folks I hope to see some of you.” He plead guilty on 8 March 2019 to both charges, however, wire fraud and money-transmitting, and the combination in potential federal prison time is 25 years.
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