Ishan Wahi, the cryptocurrency exchange’s product manager, and his brother Nikhil Wahi were arrested Thursday in Seattle and are expected to appear in federal court later that day.
They and a third defendant, their friend Sameer Ramani, also face civil charges related to the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Ramani is at large.
Prosecutors said that Ishan Wahi, 32, shared sensitive information about upcoming announcements of new cryptocurrency assets that Coinbase would allow users to trade through its exchange.
Nikhil Wahi, 26, and Ramani, 33, allegedly used ethereum blockchain wallets to acquire the assets, traded at least 14 times before Coinbase’s June 2021 and April 2022 announcements, and generated at least $1 .5 million in ill-gotten gains, prosecutors said.
“Fraud is fraud is fraud, whether it happens on the blockchain or on Wall Street,” said Damian Williams, a federal prosecutor in Manhattan, in a statement.
Prosecutors also said Ishan Wahi bought a one-way plane ticket to India after a Coinbase chief security officer summoned him to the company’s Seattle office for a meeting. Police barred him from boarding the May 16 flight, prosecutors said.
Andrew St. Laurent, an attorney for Ishan Wahi, declined to comment. An attorney for Nikhil Wahi did not immediately respond to requests for comment. An attorney for Ramani could not be immediately identified.
Philip Martin, chief security officer at Coinbase, said the company had shared the findings of an internal investigation into the trade with prosecutors.
“We are committed to doing our part to ensure that all market participants have access to the same information,” Martin wrote on Twitter.
Last month, federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged a former product manager for OpenSea, the largest online marketplace for non-fungible tokens, with insider trading in what prosecutors described as the first case of its kind involving assets.
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