The Third District Court of Appeal has overruled a Miami Judge’s decision dismissing felony charges against Miami Beach resident Michell Espinoza, clearing the way for prosecutors to reinstate the illegal money transmission and laundering charges. According to a report from the Miami Herald, the court order found that the defendant’s “bitcoins-for-cash business requires him to register as a payment instrument seller and money transmitter.”
Espinoza’s initial arrest came after detectives in Miami Beach located him on a Bitcoin exchange site and made contact posing as Bitcoin buyers. The defendant was reportedly told by the detectives that they intended to use the Bitcoin to buy stolen credit card numbers. After three meetings, Espinoza was arrested. A second man, Pascal Reid, was also arrested. He received probation after pleading guilty to unlicensed money broker activities as part of a plea agreement in which he would provide cryptocurrency education to area law enforcement.
The case made news in 2016, when Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Teresa Mary Pooler issued an order dismissing the charges, after ruling that Bitcoin is not money since it is not “tangible wealth” backed by governments or banking institutions. The judge also suggested that Florida law was too vague to be applied to Bitcoin:
“This court is unwilling to punish a man for selling his property to another, when his actions fall under a statute that is so vaguely written that even legal professionals have difficulty finding a singular meaning.”
The Court of Appeal rejected that reasoning and ruled that Espinoza’s alleged activities were indeed unregulated money transmission, which means that he should been registered with the proper authorities in the state’s Office of Financial Regulation.
According to the Miami Herald, a trial date has not yet been set.