A Richardson man who calls himself “Doctor Bitcoin” has pleaded guilty to illegally operating a cash-to-cryptocurrency conversion business, announced Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Prerak Shah.
Mark Alexander Hopkins, 42, pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of operation of an unlicensed money transmitting business. (He was charged via a criminal information on July 29, 2021.)
“This defendant ignored federal law and allowed fraudsters to use Bitcoin to operate under the radar of law enforcement,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah. “We are determined to rid the Bitcoin marketplace of anyone who knowingly helps criminal actors stash illegal profits inside crypto wallets.”
According to plea papers, Mr. Hopkins admitted he ran a business that converted U.S. dollars to cryptocurrency, primarily Bitcoin, for a fee. He frequently sent BTC to customers’ crypto wallets without taking additional steps in verifying the source of the cash, he admitted.
In September 2019, a customer identified in court documents as “M.H.” approached Mr. Hopkins to convert U.S. dollars to BTC. The money Mr. Hopkins received from M.H. stemmed from a lottery scam he was running with a coconspirator in Nigeria.
Mr. Hopkins admitted he promised not to get involved in the details of M.H’s business dealings, but told M.H. how to circumvent financial institution reporting requirements by keeping deposits under $9,500, and directed M.H. to lie to financial institutions about the purpose of the business:
“I’m set up as a marketing company, so tell them you’re paying for a marketing campaign,” he said.
Over the course of about a year, Mr. Hopkins conducted 37 transactions with M.H., converting between $550,000 and $1.5 million, he said.
The defendant admitted he was not licensed to engage in the business of transmitting money within the states where he practiced, nor was he registered as a money transmitting business with the U.S. Department of the Treasury. He failed to follow federal laws that require money transmitting businesses to verify customers’ names, date of birth, and address – a law aimed at identifying those engaged in unlawful activity – and failed to file currency transaction reports for high-value cash-in transactions.
Mr. Hopkins now faces up to five years in federal prison.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Dallas Field Office conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sid Mody is prosecuting the case.