Liberty Reserve founder pleads not guilty, faces up to 30 years

The “principal founder” of shuttered online marketplace Liberty Reserve, Arthur Budovsky, has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit money

The “principal founder” of shuttered online marketplace Liberty Reserve, Arthur Budovsky, has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transferring business and operation of an unlicensed money transmitting business. If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison.

Budovsky entered his plea four days after being extradited to the US from Spain earlier this month. District Judge Denise Cote set a trial date for September 21, 2015. US attorney Andrew Goldstein estimated that the trial would take four weeks. Budovsky’s lawyer made no application for bail.

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Prosecutors allege that the site helped users launder proceeds from crimes and transfer funds between associates, thereby evading the watch of authorities over the banking system. Funds originated from crimes including identity theft, credit card fraud, computer hacking, child pornography and narcotics trafficking.

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A system of Liberty Reserve dollars or euros, mirroring their real-world counterparts, was used as the marketplace’s currency. Like with Bitcoin, transactions were “100% irrevocable”.

Last month, the marketplace’s former IT manager, Maxim Chukharev, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business.

Budovsky and Chukharev are two of five arrested in connection with the operation. Another two remain at large in Costa Rica, where the operation was based. Budovsky renounced his US citizenship and became a citizen of Costa Rica by marrying a snack vendor in a bid to avoid extradition.

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