Ethereum Expert Admits to Violating North Korea Sanctions
A cryptocurrency expert pleaded guilty to helping North Korea evade U.S. sanctions just before he was to go to trial.
Virgil Griffith, a Ethereum Foundation cryptocurrency scientist, had been scheduled to go on trial Monday. But he instead appeared before U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel in Manhattan and admitted to one count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act under an agreement with prosecutors, according to court records.
Griffith is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 18. While he faced as much as 20 years in prison for the crime, prosecutors agreed to seek a punishment in the range of 63 months to 78 months as part of the deal. He has been in federal custody since July, when Castel revoked his bail, saying a surge in the value of his cryptocurrency holdings gave him the means and incentive to flee.
“Virgil is sincerely remorseful,” his lawyer, Brian Klein, said in a statement. “Setting aside what happened, he has made important contributions to society that we will raise with the court. He also has many wonderful qualities, and no one should define him by this mistake.”
While living in Singapore, Griffith attended a April 2019 blockchain and cryptocurrency conference in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang despite specific State Department warnings. He was arrested in November 2019 in Los Angeles on charges of providing technical blockchain information to the regime of dictator Kim Jong Un that prosecutors said could be used to help the country launder money and evade sanctions.
Griffith was the subject of a 2008 New York Times Magazine profile that described him as a “cult hacker” and dubbed him the “Internet Man of Mystery.“
The case is U.S. v. Griffith, 20-cr-00015, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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