Geek Group leaders plead to illegal Bitcoin trade, money laundering

Grand Rapids
The National Science Institute 122118_1545421568979.jpg.jpg

A December 2018 image shows authorities outside the then-National Science Institute as they execute a federal search warrant.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Former leaders of the now-defunct Geek Group have admitted to illegally buying and selling cryptocurrency, pleading in a federal money laundering case.

Chris Boden, 46, of Grand Rapids, pleaded guilty to operating an unlicensed money transmitting business, money laundering and structuring.

Daniel DeJager, 35, of Tacoma, Washington, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business and money laundering.

Leesa Vogt, 37, of Grand Rapids, pleaded guilty to structuring while operating the licensed money laundering business.

They were indicted in February, more than two years after federal agents raided the former Geek Group, at the time called The National Science Institute, in Grand Rapids. The Geek Group provided workspaces for people, offered services like low-cost computers to families and acted as an incubator for startups. Boden was its president, Vogt a board member and DeJager a consultant.

Federal authorities say the three marketed The Geek Group to customers as a middleman to trade some $740,000 in Bitcoin even though the nonprofit didn’t have a license. Some of their customers’ cash came from illegal drug sales. The three moved that money to hide its origin — which is laundering — and organized bank deposits and withdrawals with the goal of avoiding authorities’ attention — which is structuring.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office says all three will be sentenced separately in February of next year. Boden and DeJager could each spend up to 10 years in a federal prison, while Vogt could spend 10 years behind bars. They may also face fines.

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