Department of Justice officials announced the arrest of a former manager of the cryptocurrency exchange platform Coinbase Thursday morning. Authorities arrested Ishan Wahi, 32, in Seattle on four charges related to cryptocurrency wire fraud.
“Today’s charges are a further reminder that Web3 is not a law-free zone,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said. “Fraud is fraud is fraud, whether it occurs on the blockchain or on Wall Street.”
Law enforcement also arrested Wahi’s 26-year-old brother Nikhil Wahi Thursday on related charges. Authorities also indicted Wahi’s friend Sameer Ramani, 33, but authorities have not arrested him at this time.
Authorities said between June 2021 and April 2022 Wahi would tip off his brother and Ramani when cryptocurrency tokens were about to be listed on Coinbase. Nikhil and Ramani then allegedly used anonymous cryptocurrency wallets to trade dozens of tokens, making about $1.5 million in profit.
“Although the allegations in this case relate to transactions made in a crypto exchange — rather than a more traditional financial market — they still constitute insider trading,” FBI Assistant Director Michael J. Driscoll said. “Today’s action should demonstrate the FBI’s commitment to protecting the integrity of all financial markets — both ‘old’ and ‘new.'”
Wahi faces two counts of wire fraud conspiracy and two counts of wire fraud, and his brother faces one count of wire fraud conspiracy and one count of wire fraud. Ramani was indicted on one count of wire fraud conspiracy and one count of wire fraud.
Coinbase did not immediately respond to CNET’s request for comment.