05/31/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/31/2023 13:52
WASHINGTON - Firoz Patel, 48, of Canada, was ordered detained today following indictment on charges of laundering 450 Bitcoin (BTC), valued at $24,020,699.83 at the time of the transaction, shortly before he reported to prison in another case in 2021. The two-count indictment, unsealed on May 17, 2023, charges Patel with money laundering and engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity. U.S. District Court Judge Dabney L. Friedrich, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, ordered Patel be detained pending trial.
The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves and Special Agent in Charge Derek W. Gordon of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, D.C.
Previously, Patel, his brother, Ferhan, and their company, MH Pillars, Inc., d/b/a Payza, were prosecuted in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for operating an Internet-based unlicensed money service business that processed more than $250 million in transactions. Through Payza.com, the defendants ran a money transmitting business that operated without the necessary state licenses and knowingly transmitted funds that were derived from illegal activity. The brothers each pled guilty to conspiracy to commit crimes against the United States by operating an unlicensed money transmitting business and by laundering monetary instruments. As part of his plea agreement, Firoz Patel was required to disclose all known assets to the U.S. government. On November 10, 2020, Patel was sentenced to 36 months in prison and was given a reporting date. The court also entered a forfeiture judgment for "any property, real or personal, involved in" the offense to which Firoz Patel had pled guilty.
According to court documents, between his sentencing and reporting dates, Patel transferred 450 BTC, traceable to Payza.com, to an account at a virtual currency exchange in the United Kingdom. The 450 Bitcoin would have been subject to forfeiture in Patel's previous criminal case. The virtual currency exchange account was opened using the name and date of birth of Patel's father, but with an email address and phone number controlled by Firoz Patel. When the virtual currency exchange requested additional information about the account and the large deposit, it received a response in the name of an employee of a company in India affiliated with Payza. The account containing the 450 Bitcoin was ultimately frozen.
This matter is being investigated by the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, D.C. Field Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Arvind K. Lal and Christopher B. Brown.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.