Aaron Kuns, a man from Toledo, Ohio who was recently charged with creating fake identification cards at a Bitcoin-powered distribution ring, has gotten a 366-day stint at a United States federal prison. According to a report by local news medium The Toledo Blade, Kuns, who pleaded guilty to his charges back in June, will also be compelled to face three years of supervised release, while having to forfeit his $9,675 cryptocurrency holdings.
Making fakes, getting paid
The entire case began back in February 2018, when Kuns and three of his associates were arrested on suspicions that they were helping to create fake IDs. Reports suggested that the Ohio based outfit was participating in the distribution of counterfeit driver’s licenses and other means of identification across the country, and that they had been operating since early 2013.
In a raid of their facility last year, law enforcement officials were able to seize about $7,000 in cash, a thumb drive with up to $4.7 million in Bitcoin, as well as six prepaid cryptocurrency debit cards all registered under separate identities. They also found gold and silver bars in the criminals’ possession as well.
Kuns and Mark Alex Simon, another defendant, initially pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to launder money. Sarah Alberts, the third defendant, was also charged with money laundering, conspiracy, and knowingly possessing with intent to use unlawfully or transfer unlawfully five or more identification documents. While she was initially charged with the same crimes as her two co-conspirators, she entered into a plea deal to get them dropped.
Simon confessed that he had knowingly transferred false identification documents to people, while Kuns admitted to producing the documents themselves.
A well-oiled machine
Court documents revealed that Simon was the leader of this band of delinquents. He would purportedly receive the orders from customers on “TedDanzigSR,” his personal platform on popular comment and forum platform Reddit. The orders would include mailing labels, personal information, and photos, all of which would be forwarded to Kuns.
Kuns was the engine of the operations, while Alberts was the one responsible for having the falsified documents shipped after completion. Benjamin Stalets, the last member of the crew, has still not been charged or arraigned yet.
It was a real mom and pop store, only that these guys made some serious bank.
Alberts eventually pled guilty to her charges, and she is expected to be charged on October 8. As for Kuns, he confessed to Judge Jeffrey Helmick that he was sorry for actions, which he blamed on poor decisions he made while being under the influence of marijuana. He was eventually given his year-and-a-day sentence, which he is expected to begin soon.
Banishing the link between Bitcoin and criminals
The use of crypto for criminal activities such as these are part of the reasons why Bitcoin remains infamous among many in the developed world. The belief that the asset is no more than a payment tool for criminals remains rampant, despite efforts to help eradicate this stigma.
I am not a fan of Bitcoin and other Cryptocurrencies, which are not money, and whose value is highly volatile and based on thin air. Unregulated Crypto Assets can facilitate unlawful behavior, including drug trade and other illegal activity….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 12, 2019
Hopefully, some change to this could come soon. Authorities have advocated for serious Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and customer identification standards on the crypto space, with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recently recommending that exchanges, wallet providers, and other asset custodians collect customer information and implement transaction tracking measures.
With these, suspicious activities can be identified, and Bitcoin’s criminal links could hopefully be permanently severed.