US Govt seeks prison sentence for BitFunder operator Jon Montroll

Maria Nikolova

The defense, however, insists Montroll’s good character and role in providing care for many people are sufficient reasons for a sentence involving no incarceration.

The United States Government and Jon Montroll, the operator of Bitcoin-related services WeExchange and Bitfunder.com, have clashed over the appropriate sentence in a case involving securities fraud and obstruction of justice.

As FinanceFeeds has earlier reported, Montroll’s counsel has argued in favor of a probationary sentence. But the Government pushes for a harsher punishment. In a recently filed sentencing submission, the US Government argues that a sentence within the range of 27 to 33 months’ imprisonment is reasonable and appropriate in this case.

Montroll has pleaded guilty to securities fraud and obstruction of justice for deceiving investors and potential investors of virtual security known as Ukyo.Loan in connection with Montroll’s discovery of a catastrophic computer hack of his business, and for his lies to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission during the SEC’s investigation into that hack.

By December 2012, Montroll operated two different Bitcoin-related web services. First, Montroll operated WeExchange, Australia, Pty. Ltd, known as “WeExchange,” which functioned as a bitcoin depository and currency exchange service. Second, Montroll launched “Bitfunder.com,” an online platform that facilitated the purchase and trading of virtual shares in investment opportunities offered mostly by others. Those two services interlinked: Users of BitFunder were required to create a WeExchange account to facilitate BitFunder transactions, and any investments through BitFunder were held on WeExchange in what was referred to as the “WeExchange Wallet.”

Beginning in late July 2013, and continuing for about a month, until August 27, 2013, a hacker or hackers exploited a weakness in BitFunder’s programming code to confer credits to themselves that they did not earn. When Montroll discovered the Exploit, he attempted to cover it up. Montroll transferred a large amount of bitcoin he had stored elsewhere into the WeExchange system to backfill the losses, but did not disclose the fact of the Exploit to his users.

By the early fall of 2013, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) began investigating the Exploit and Montroll’s response. As part of that investigation, the SEC conducted an investigative deposition of Montroll. During that interview, Montroll falsely denied to the SEC that the Exploit had caused losses and falsely claimed that he had managed to detect and halt the Exploit within its first few hours. A few weeks after the initial interview, Montroll admitted that the Exploit had, in fact, been successful and that users’ bitcoins had been taken.

On February 20, 2018, the United States charged Montroll by Criminal Complaint with perjury and obstruction of justice.

On July 23, 2018, Montroll consented to the filing of Information, which charged Montroll with securities fraud and obstruction of justice. That same day, Montroll pleaded guilty, pursuant to a plea agreement with the Government.

According to the Government, an imprisonment sentence from 27 to 33 months is necessary, first and foremost, to promote respect for the law. Second, such a sentence is seen as necessary for general deterrence.

On January 21, 2019, the defense submitted another Letter with the New York Southern District Court, insisting that no incarceration is appropriate.

The defense counsel says that Montroll’s “extraordinary rehabilitation, good character, his unique role in providing employment and care for many people, and his acceptance of responsibility are compelling reasons for a sentence involving no incarceration”.

The defense submits that a sentence to a term of probation of a length deemed appropriate by the Court, with conditions of home confinement and community service, is the appropriate sentence.

The criminal proceedings continue at the New York Southern District Court.

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