Bitcoin is money and can be accepted as payment for goods and services, a US federal judge has ruled.
The decision is linked to a criminal case over hacking attacks against JPMorgan Chase & Co. and other companies, Reuters reports.
US District Judge Alison Nathan rejected a bid by Anthony Murgio to dismiss two charges related to his alleged operation of Coin.mx, which prosecutors have called an unlicensed bitcoin exchange.
Murgio had argued that bitcoin did not qualify as “funds” under the federal law prohibiting the operation of unlicensed money transmitting businesses.
But the judge, like her colleague Jed Rakoff in an unrelated 2014 case, said the virtual currency met that definition.
“Bitcoins are funds within the plain meaning of that term,” Nathan wrote.
“Bitcoins can be accepted as a payment for goods and services or bought directly from an exchange with a bank account. They therefore function as pecuniary resources and are used as a medium of exchange and a means of payment.”
The decision did not address six other criminal counts that Murgio faces, Nathan wrote.
Prosecutors last year charged Murgio over the operation of Coin.mx, and in April charged his father Michael with participating in bribery aimed at supporting it.
Authorities have said Coin.mx was owned by Gery Shalon, an Israeli man who, along with two others, was charged with running a sprawling computer hacking and fraud scheme targeting a dozen companies, including JPMorgan, and exposing the personal data of more than 100 million people.
That alleged scheme generated hundreds of millions of dollars of profit by pumping up stock prices, online casinos, money laundering and other illegal activity, prosecutors have said.
Shalon has pleaded not guilty, and is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. He hired new lawyers last month and is seeking permission to replace lawyers who joined the case in June, a Monday court filing showed.
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