“Doctor Bitcoin,” the self-given nom de guerre of a 42-year-old Richardson man, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to an illegal cash-to-cryptocurrency scheme, according to court documents.
Mark Alexander Hopkins converted up to $1.5 million into Bitcoin for a customer running a lottery scam with a Nigeria-based co-conspirator, documents show.
For at least a year, Hopkins ran a business converting U.S. dollars into cryptocurrency — for a fee. He neglected to verify customers’ personal data, flouting anti-money laundering regulations aimed at rooting out unlawful activity.
Hopkins has pleaded guilty to one count of operation of an unlicensed money transmitting business, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas.
“This defendant ignored federal law and allowed fraudsters to use Bitcoin to operate under the radar of law enforcement,” Acting U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah said in a press release. “We are determined to rid the Bitcoin marketplace of anyone who knowingly helps criminal actors stash illegal profits inside crypto wallets.”
An attorney for Hopkins did not respond to requests for comment by publication time.
“I’m set up as a marketing company, so tell them you’re paying for a marketing campaign." – Mark Hopkins, a.k.a. "Dr. Bitcoin"
According to court documents, Hopkins admitted he ran a money transmitting business as his main source of income, primarily providing customers with Bitcoin cryptocurrency. He advertised his services on platforms like Localbitcoins.com and Paxful.com.
After receiving cash, Hopkins would buy and send Bitcoin to his customers’ Bitcoin wallets while pocketing his fee. He’d meet up with customers in person if they were in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Beyond asking for some form of ID, Hopkins never took extra measures to verify the source of the money.
Spanning the course of a year, Hopkins converted between $550,000 and $1.5 million into Bitcoin for a customer. Identified in court documents as “M.H.,” the customer used cash linked to a lottery scam he operated alongside a co-conspirator located in Nigeria.
Hopkins communicated directly with M.H. and the co-conspirator but never asked for the latter’s identification, despite knowing he was located in Nigeria.
Last year on August 13, Hopkins told M.H. he preferred to know little about his customers, the court documents say.
“I don’t want to get into details of whatever business they’re involved in,” he said, according to court documents. “It keeps my mind focused on what my actual business is about, rather than getting involved in their business dealings.”
Earlier on, Hopkins informed M.H. how to sidestep requirements for financial institution reporting. He also instructed M.H. to lie to such institutions about the business's purpose.
“I’m set up [as] a marketing company, so tell them you’re paying for a marketing campaign,” Hopkins told him.
Hopkins was never licensed by the states of Texas or Pennsylvania to engage in the business of transmitting money, documents show. He also never registered with the U.S. Treasury Department as a money transmitting business.
Doctor Bitcoin could spend up to five years in federal prison.