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Press Release

Lexington Man Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering Charge Using Bitcoin

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of South Carolina

Contact Person: DeWayne Pearson (803) 929-3000

Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Bill Nettles stated today that Joseph Patrick Gelli age 23 of Lexington has entered a plea of guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956. According to facts presented during the guilty plea hearing, Gelli was involved in trafficking illegal drugs through the use of Bitcoin, an internet based money system. Gelli used bitcoins to purchase marijuana and psychotropic mushrooms from illegal websites located on “the deep web”, a section of the internet not accessible through common search engines like Google or Yahoo. Gelli had the illegal drugs delivered to his home and then he would distribute the illegal drugs to his customers. A search of Gelli’s home revealed a variety of illicit drugs and $38,000 in cash. Sentencing in the case has not yet been scheduled, but Gelli faces a maximum penalty of twenty years of imprisonment and a fine of $500,000.

Thomas J. Holloman, III Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation said, "Mr. Gelli’s criminal activities involved the laundering of specified unlawful activity using Bitcoin‎, a virtual currency that can be used in a wide variety of crimes involving tax fraud, money laundering, and other financial crimes. IRS-CI will continue to focus on financial crimes that involve virtual currency by collaborating with FinCEN, its internal business units and other federal law enforcement agencies to identify the movement of illegal monies utilizing virtual currency.”

The case was investigated by Special Agents with the Internal Revenue Service and the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney T. DeWayne Pearson of the Columbia office.


Updated May 1, 2015