NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Florida man was arrested on Thursday for participating in a bribery scheme aimed at supporting an illegal bitcoin exchange operated by his son and owned by an Israeli behind a series of hacking attacks on organizations such as JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Michael Murgio, who serves on a school board in Palm Beach County, was charged in an indictment filed in federal court in Manhattan for participating in a scheme to pay bribes to let the bitcoin exchange’s operators gain control of a credit union.
Murgio, 65, was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Thursday. He was later released on a $250,000 bond following a hearing in federal court in West Palm Beach.
Stuart Kaplan, Murgio’s lawyer, said he was “confident that he will be fully exonerated from the allegations.”
The indictment added Murgio as a defendant in a case against three other individuals including his son Anthony Murgio, who prosecutors say operated the unlicensed bitcoin exchange, Coin.mx, and was involved in the bribe scheme.
Prosecutors have said that Coin.mx was owned by Gery Shalon, an Israeli accused of orchestrating a massive hacking scheme with another Israeli, Ziv Orenstein, and an American, Joshua Samuel Aaron.
Prosecutors contend Shalon, Orenstein and Aaron ran a criminal enterprise that hacked into a dozen companies’ networks, stealing the personal information of more than 100 million people.
In the case of JPMorgan, prosecutors said records belonging to more than 83 million customers were stolen.
While the Murgios are not accused of engaging in the hacking offenses, prosecutors said they committed crimes with their co-defendants, Florida resident Yuri Lebedev and New Jersey pastor Trevon Gross, related to the unlicensed operation of Coin.mx.
Prosecutors said beginning in 2013, Anthony Murgio operated Coin.mx, which exchanged millions of dollars of the virtual currency bitcoin for customers, while Lebedev supervised computer programming functions for the exchange.
To evade scrutiny of Coin.mx, the Murgios and Lebedev in 2014 acquired control of Helping Other People Excel Federal Credit Union of Jackson, New Jersey, by paying $150,000 in bribes to Gross, its chairman, the indictment said.
Anthony Murgio, Lebedev and Gross have previously pled not guilty to the charges against them. They are scheduled to face trial on Oct. 31.
Extradition proceedings in Israel against Shalon and Orenstein remain pending. Aaron remains at large and was believed by the FBI as of November to be in Eastern Europe.
The case is U.S. v. Murgio, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 15-cr-00769.
Editing by Bernadette Baum
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