Bitcoin qualified as money according to the ruling of a federal judge, in a case linked to hacking attacks against JPMorgan Chase & Co and other companies.
US district judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan rejected a bid by Anthony Murgio to dismiss two charges related to his alleged operation of Coin.mx, which prosecutors had called an unlicensed bitcoin exchange.
Murgio had argued that bitcoin did not qualify as "funds" under the federal law prohibiting the operation of unlicensed money transmitting businesses.
However, the judge, like her colleague Jed Rakoff in an unrelated 2014 case, held that the virtual currency met that definition.
"Bitcoins are funds within the plain meaning of that term," Nathan wrote. "Bitcoins can be accepted as a payment for goods and services or bought directly from an exchange with a bank account.
They therefore function as pecuniary resources and are used as a medium of exchange and a means of payment."
Nathan wrote that the decision did not address six other criminal counts that Murgio faced.
Brian Klein, a lawyer for Murgio, disagreeing with the decision said, "Anthony Murgio maintains his innocence and looks forward to clearing his name at his upcoming trial."
The ruling comes after a court decision in Florida in which a Miami judge ruled that, according to state statutes, bitcoin did not qualify as a form of money. The decision led to a debate among observers prompting efforts in the state legislature to develop regulations around the digital currency.
The Coin.mx case was linked to a broader investigation by the US government into an alleged cybercrime ring related to a series of hacks on major companies and financial institutions, including Wall Street giant JPMorgan Chase. Prosecutors argued that Coin.mx was used as a conduit for laundering proceeds from the purported operation.