Oct. 14, 2022 By Christian Murray
A Sunnyside man faces 25 years in prison after being convicted in Brooklyn federal court Tuesday of laundering bitcoin and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business—as part of a scheme to help customers launder proceeds from drug trafficking.
Mustafa Goklu, 50, was nabbed by the feds in April 2019 about a year after undercover DEA agents began tracking him after he posted an online ad that he could offer as much as $99,999 in cash for Bitcoin–for a fee.
“The defendant offered his customers the ability to launder their criminal proceeds, remain anonymous and conceal where their Bitcoin was coming from so they could continue to engage in drug trafficking and other crimes while avoiding law enforcement detection,” said Breon Peace, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, in a statement.
According to the trial, an undercover agent reached out to Goklu in July 2018 looking to exchange Bitcoin for cash after seeing his ad on localbitcoins.com. The agent began exchanging encrypted texts with Goklu before arranging in-person meetings where Bitcoin was exchanged for cash.
The undercover agent met up with Goklu in Sunnyside seven times over a nine-month period to conduct transactions. The exchanges took place in his Mercedes-Benz outside an undisclosed coffee shop in Sunnyside.
The agent, according to court documents, told Goklu that the source of the Bitcoin came from narcotics trafficking and that part of that business involved the sale of oxycodone, Adderall, and marijuana.
The transactions ranged in amount from $5,000 to $50,000 for a total of $133,000. With each transaction the agent would transfer Bitcoin to Goklu’s cryptocurrency wallet—less a 7 to 8 percent fee—and Goklu would provide cash.
Goklu was also found to be engaging in similar Bitcoin exchanges with several other people.
He was arrested in April 2019.
“With today’s verdict, Goklu’s illicit business of converting money from one form to another without a required license has been shut down and the defendant has been convicted for his crimes,” Peace said.