The use of bitcoin for illegal activities by the leader of the Romanian Hells Angels, including drugs and murder, underscores the role of cryptocurrency in enabling and facilitating criminal operations.
The leader of a Romania-based chapter of the Hells Angels has been convicted in Texas for a conspiracy involving drug trafficking, arms dealing, money laundering, and using bitcoin to pay for the assassination of two rival gang leaders. According to the Department of Justice’s announcement last week, 50-year-old Marius Lazar was found guilty of conspiring to commit racketeering, conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, and conspiring to commit money laundering. Lazar, who was the founding member of the Hells Angels chapter in Bucharest, Romania, was extradited to the US following his arrest in November 2020.
Lazar was part of a conspiracy with a Hells Angels member from New Zealand to order 400kg of cocaine from an undercover DEA agent and paid for the assassination of two members of a rival motorcycle club in Romania using bitcoin and fiat currency. He also offered to supply the undercover agent with military-grade equipment. Two New Zealanders involved in the same conspiracy were arrested in the DEA raid but are reportedly still on the run.
The pair, Murray Michael Matthews and Marc Patrick Johnson, were granted bail by a Romanian court and then fled the country. Matthews is a member of the Hells Angels Auckland chapter while Johnson is a trained chemist and long-standing meth cook in New Zealand.
The case sheds light on the international reach and criminal activities of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang, as well as their use of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin for illegal transactions. The conviction of Lazar and the ongoing pursuit of the other individuals involved highlight law enforcement’s efforts to dismantle transnational organized crime groups.