Benjamin James Cance, who has been charged for shipping illegal arms, possession of an unregistered weapon, and money laundering, allegedly used bitcoin to facilitate transactions. Bitcoin payments are typically untraceable, as the verification process is done by a network of computers solving complex algorithms to update the distributed public ledger called blockchain.
This isn’t the first time that the cryptocurrency has been involved in illegal dealings, as it has been the currency of choice in the now-defunct Silk Road or underground marketplace in the Dark Net.
Bitcoin for Illegal Weapons
Cance appeared before Magistrate Judge Phillip Green this week and pleaded not guilty. He is currently out on a $10,000 bond and is awaiting trial, although no official schedule has been set yet.
If convicted, Cance could face up to 20 years in prison for international arms shipment. In addition, the maximum penalty for illegal possession of a machine gun and money laundering is 10 years. The Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Internal Revenue Service, the US Postal Inspection Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are all working in their investigation of the case.
According to United States Attorney Patrick Miles, Cance is accused of illegally shipping gun components listed on the U.S. Munitions List to overseas buyers through the “darknet,” or illegal internet sites. He also allegedly used bitcoin to get paid for his services in an effort to hide the nature of his activities.
Investigations revealed that Cance had been laundering the profits from his illegal weapons trade to buy a house. U.S. District Judge Robert Bell has been assigned the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy VerHey was assigned the case for prosecution.
Authorities continue to crack down on other illegal operations that might’ve involved bitcoin transactions, although this process has proved to be very challenging due to the anonymous nature of cryptocurrency payments.