Ethereum dev pleads guilty over North Korea, lawyers can take pay from Coinbase account

Ironically, it was accessing Virgil Griffith's Coinbase account that landed the Ethereum dev behind bars, after he was already out on bail.

Ethereum dev Virgil Griffith brokered a last-minute plea deal over the weekend to avoid the 20-year maximum sentence for violating US sanctions on North Korea.

Griffith pleaded guilty Monday to one count of conspiring to break the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).

Griffith made the change to his plea just before jury selection for his trial began in US District Court in Manhattan, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

Authorities then remanded the 38-year old to jail. Griffith’s sentencing is slated for January next year.

He’s expected to receive a prison term of between five and six years.

Griffith ignored US to present in North Korea

Prosecutors say Griffith broke the IEEPA in 2019 by giving a speech on blockchain in North Korea.

Authorities reckon the content of the Ethereum dev’s presentation could help the DPRK in its money laundering endeavors.

  • The IEEPA prohibits US nationals from exporting good and services to the DPRK without permission from the US government.
  • Griffith did approach the US Treasury for permission to speak at the DPRK Cryptocurrency Conference.
  • The request was denied but Griffith travelled to North Korea anyway.

“As he admitted in court today, Virgil Griffith agreed to help one of our nation’s most dangerous foreign adversaries, North Korea,” Audrey Strauss, US attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a prepared statement.

“Griffith jeopardized the national security of the United States by undermining the sanctions that both Congress and the President have enacted to place maximum pressure on the threat posed by North Korea’s treacherous regime,” she added.

Griffith’s speech in South Korea didn’t break any laws

Griffith’s own council told WSJ they intended to highlight his “contributions to society,” adding that he’s “sincerely remorseful.”

Judge grants access to Ethereum dev’s Coinbase account

Following the guilty plea, US District Judge P. Kevin Castel made an order which allows Griffith’s lawyers to take their fee from the balance of his Coinbase accounts.

In July, he reportedly had close to $1 million in cryptocurrency stored on the exchange.

Ironically, it was accessing a Coinbase account that landed the Ethereum dev behind bars in the first place.

After his arrest in November 2019, Griffith’s bail conditions came complete with tough restrictions on his internet usage — including checking his Coinbase balance.

[Read more: Ethereum is making the same mistakes as the Bitcoin hard fork attempts]

The embattled Ethereum dev was tempted to break his bail terms when Ether’s price skyrocketed, prosecutors say.

Griffith reportedly claimed he’d requested his family members to take a look in his stead.

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