NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Florida man pleaded guilty on Thursday to obstructing a regulatory examination of a credit union linked to an illegal bitcoin exchange owned by an Israeli accused of being behind hacking attacks on companies including JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Michael Murgio, 66, admitted in Manhattan federal court he drafted a letter in 2014 with a false statement that was sent to the National Credit Union Administration during an examination of the New Jersey-based credit union.
“When I did this, I knew what I was doing was wrong,” Murgio said.
Under a plea deal, Murgio, a former member of the Palm Beach County School Board, agreed not to appeal any prison sentence of 16 months or less. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 27.
Murgio was indicted in April, becoming one of eight people to face charges following an investigation connected to a data breach that JPMorgan disclosed in 2014 involving records for more than 83 million accounts.
Among those charged was his son, Anthony Murgio, who prosecutors say operated Coin.mx, an unlicensed bitcoin exchange owned by Gery Shalon, an Israeli accused of orchestrating a massive hacking scheme involving JPMorgan and other companies.
Prosecutors contend Shalon along with another Israeli, Ziv Orenstein, and an American, Joshua Samuel Aaron, ran a criminal enterprise that hacked into a dozen companies’ networks, stealing the personal information of over 100 million customers.
While the Murgios were not accused of roles in the hacking offenses, prosecutors said they committed crimes linked to the operation of Coin.mx, which exchanged millions of dollars of the virtual currency bitcoin for customers.
Prosecutors said that beginning in 2013, Anthony Murgio operated Coin.mx, with the assistance of others including Florida resident Yuri Lebedev.
To evade scrutiny of Coin.mx, they acquired control in 2014 of the now-defunct Helping Other People Excel Federal Credit Union of Jackson, New Jersey, by paying $150,000 in bribes to its chairman, pastor Trevon Gross, an indictment said.
Michael Murgio’s guilty plea was the second in the case. Jose Freundt, another Florida resident who according to his lawyers worked for Coin.mx briefly, pleaded guilty to various charges on Oct. 13 and agreed to cooperate with authorities.
Anthony Murgio, Lebedev and Gross have pleaded not guilty. They are scheduled to face trial in February.
Shalon and Orenstein pleaded not guilty following their extradition from Israel in June. Aaron is currently in Russia.
The case is U.S. v. Murgio, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 15-cr-00769.
Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney