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Harmon, the CEO of Bitcoin Mixing, has pleaded guilty to a US money-laundering charge

On Wednesday in D.C. District Court, Larry Dean Harmon, the imprisoned former CEO of the darknet bitcoin mixing service Helix, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments.

Helix handled 354,468 BTC for drug sellers on Alphabay and other markets between July 2014 and December 2017. This amount was valued over $311 million at the time of the sale. Helix handled approximately $16 billion in bitcoin at today's values.

On February 6, 2020, Harmon was arrested in Ohio and charged with money laundering conspiracy, running an illegal money transmitter company, and money transmission without a license. Harmon was sentenced to pay a $60 million civil penalty in October 2020.

The lawsuit against Harmon was the first time that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and related financial watchdogs, such as the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), declared bitcoin mixing services to be unlawful.

“This charge emphasizes that attempting to conceal virtual currency transactions in this manner is a crime,” Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said in a press release after Harmon's arrest.

Many in the cryptocurrency community are concerned that Harmon's arrest will establish a precedent that making a bitcoin mixer illegal, and that any business that employs obfuscation techniques to hide bitcoin's publicly visible route would suffer legal repercussions. However, there are a variety of methods for "mixing" bitcoin payments, some of which are less illegal than others.

Harmon's lawyer emphasized that Helix's double-blind nature meant that Harmon had no knowledge of the quantity or value of the transactions he handled while pleading guilty.

Harmon's plea bargain was characterized by the prosecution as "lenient" because of an undisclosed "cooperation arrangement."

Harmon, on the other hand, is not getting off lightly, according to Ari Redbord, TRM Labs' director of legal and government relations.

“Quite the contrary. He pleaded guilty to the indictment's top charge, money laundering conspiracy, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail and a sentencing guideline range of life in prison, according to Redbord. “He now needs to furnish the government with crucial material in order for them to petition the Court for a downward departure. For all parties, the outcome is reasonable.”

Harmon, who is free awaiting sentencing, faces a potential term of 20 years in federal prison as well as a “large and long forfeiture agreement,” according to his counsel.

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