A former American Ethereum developer and crypto enthusiast, Virgil Griffith, has been sentenced this morning to over 5 years in prison by a District Judge in New York for the crime of assisting North Korea in avoiding sanctions through the use of cryptocurrencies.

The judge has also slapped Griffith with a $100,000 fine for teaching officials within the country how to use blockchain technology to access funds from a global pool of investors.

Griffith, a 39-year-old developer and the creator of WikiScanner, was apprehended during a cryptocurrency conference in the North Korean capital in April 2019 and remained in custody for 10 months and was then released on bail for another 14 months until the trial concluded.

According to Griffith’s lawyer, the young crypto expert has been dedicated to receiving therapy during this period and has demonstrated that he is ashamed of his actions, which involve assisting one of the United States’ most prominent enemies.

Griffith’s past projects were controversial enough to earn him a reputation in the tech realm as WikiScanner – a website he developed – was designed to unmask people who edited Wikipedia entries to spot potentially self-serving posts that aimed to spread misinformation or clean the personal bio of a certain character.

His efforts attracted the attention of mainstream media back in 2007-2008 and then he progressively became familiar with blockchain technology after Bitcoin was presented to the world in 2009 by an anonymous character known as Satoshi Nakamoto.

How Can Cryptocurrencies Help North Korea in Avoiding Sanctions?

Blockchain technology can be used to make peer-to-peer (P2P) transactions that don’t require the involvement of an intermediary. Through the use of cryptography, digital assets can be transferred between anonymous parties and ownership of these assets gets recorded in a decentralized ledger that is kept up to date by a network of validators.

Countries such as North Korea can use this technology to bypass the sanctions imposed by the United States that prevent it from dealing with other countries, suppliers, and investors as it is often hard to track who is behind every transaction.

Griffith may have assisted North Korea in developing the tools and equipment required to promote, trade, and even mine cryptocurrencies with the intention of raising funds and earning money for the country.

More Details on Griffith’s Sentence

US District Judge Kevin Castel of the Southern District of New York was in charge of the case and ruled that Griffith will have to spend up to 6 and a half years in prison. However, the judge agreed to deduct the 10 months that the accused remained in custody with the authorities.

Griffith’s lawyer – Brian Klein – has asked the judge for his client to be transferred to a low-security facility in Pennsylvania after alleging that conditions within the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) were “trying and inhumane”.

According to the attorney, Griffith had to endure prolonged periods of isolation due to COVID-19 outbreaks in the facility while he also complained about limited access to warm clothing, blanket, toiletries, and family visits.

Klein also informed the judge that Griffith has been diagnosed with two personality disorders including Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD). These mental illnesses may explain why his client acted the way he did and why he became “obsessed” with North Korea.

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