Former Ethereum (ETH) developer, Virgil Griffith, who was charged with one count of conspiring to break the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), changed his plea just moments before the jury selection for his trial began in US District Court in Manhattan.
Griffith is scheduled to be sentenced next year in January, and while he faces as much as 20 years in prison, as part of his plea deal, prosecutors have agreed to seek a shorter punishment.
Between 63 and 78 months in prison
After giving a crypto and blockchain presentation at a North Korean conference in 2019, Griffith was charged with conspiring to violate a federal law prohibiting US citizens from exporting goods, services, or technology to the communist country.
The last-minute plea deal to avoid the 20-year maximum sentence could see Griffith serve between 63 and 78 months in prison.
Just in: As his trial regarding a crypto-currency conference in North Korea was about to begin, Virgil Griffith has changed his plea to guilty. The trial won’t take place and he will be sentenced in January. pic.twitter.com/uEJt3ZtqqI
— Martyn Williams (@martyn_williams) September 27, 2021
“As he admitted in court today, Virgil Griffith agreed to help one of our nation’s most dangerous foreign adversaries, North Korea. Griffith worked with others to provide cryptocurrency services to North Korea and assist North Korea in evading sanctions, and traveled to North Korea to do so. In the process, 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,” said Audrey Strauss, US attorney for the Southern District of New York, in a prepared statement.
Griffith’s plea deal came as a surprise since both prosecutors and Griffith’s legal defense have been preparing for a trial.
He has been in US federal custody since July when US District Judge P. Kevin Castel in Manhattan revoked his bail. His bail conditions included tough restrictions on his internet usage, which he violated when he tried to access his Coinbase holdings.
Following the guilty plea, Judge Castel made an order, allowing Griffith’s lawyers to charge their fees from his Coinbase account.
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