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Press Release

Bitcoin Dealer Pleads Guilty & Agrees to Forfeit Ill-Gotten Gains

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – October 29, 2018

SAN DIEGO – Jacob Burrell Campos pled guilty today in federal court to operating an unlicensed money transmitting business, in connection with his sale of hundreds of thousands of dollars in Bitcoin to over 1,000 customers throughout the United States from January 2015 to April of 2016.   

            According to the terms of his plea agreement, Burrell admitted to operating a Bitcoin exchange without registering with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) of the U.S. Department of Treasury, and without implementing the required anti-money laundering safeguards.  According to the plea agreement, Burrell advertised his business on, and communicated with his customers through email and text messages, often using encrypted applications.  He negotiated a commission of 5% above the prevailing exchange rate, and accepted cash in person, through nationwide ATMs, and through MoneyGram.  Burrell admitted that he had no anti-money laundering or “know your customer” program, and performed no due diligence on the source of his customers’ money. 

Burrell admitted that, at first, he purchased his supply of Bitcoin through a U.S.-based, regulated exchange, but his account was soon closed because of the large number of suspicious transactions.  He then resorted to a cryptocurrency exchange in Hong Kong, where he purchased a total of $3.29 million in Bitcoin, in hundreds of separate transactions, between March 2015 and April 2017. 

Finally, Burrell admitted that he exchanged his U.S. currency, which he kept in Mexico, with Joseph Castillo, a San Diego-based precious metals dealer.  Between late 2016 and early 2018, Burrell and others imported over $1 million in U.S. currency on almost a daily basis.  Burrell admitted that they did this in amounts slightly below the $10,000 reporting requirement.  Castillo pled guilty to making a false statement on his federal tax returns, and is awaiting sentencing on December 13, 2018.

According to his plea agreement, Burrell agreed to forfeit to the United States a total of $823,357.00.

            “Unlicensed money transmitting businesses, especially those operating at or near the border, pose a serious threat to the integrity of the US banking system, and provide an ‘open door’ for criminals to utilize such businesses to launder the proceeds of their illicit activities,” said U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman.  “The Department of Justice will continue to investigate and prosecute all individuals and businesses that seek to evade the licensing and anti-money laundering requirements under federal law.”   

            Burrell will be sentenced on February 11, 2019, and faces a maximum of five years’imprisonment.

DEFENDANT                                                Case Number 18CR3554-H

Jacob Burrell-Campos                                    Age: 21                       Rosarito, Baja California, Mexico

Count 1:  Conducting an unlicensed money transmitting business, 18 USC 1960.

Statutory maximum:  5 years prison, $250,000 fine.


Homeland Security Investigations, Internal Revenue Service, Postal Inspection Service


Assistant U. S. Attorney Robert Ciaffa (619) 546-7748

Updated October 29, 2018

Asset Forfeiture
Financial Fraud
Release Number: CAS18-1029-Burrell Campos