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Former Coinbase Manager Arrested on Crypto Insider-Trading Charges

He was arrested Thursday morning in Seattle.

Illustration showing coins representing cryptocurrency descending into a stack
Coinbase is a cryptocurrency exchange platform.
Robert Rodriguez/CNET

Department of Justice officials on Thursday announced the arrest of a former manager of the cryptocurrency exchange platform Coinbase. Authorities arrested Ishan Wahi, 32, in Seattle on Thursday morning on four charges related to cryptocurrency wire fraud

"Today's charges are a further reminder that Web3 is not a law-free zone," US Attorney Damian Williams said. "Fraud is fraud is fraud, whether it occurs on the blockchain or on Wall Street."

Law enforcement officials also arrested Wahi's 26-year-old brother Nikhil Wahi on Thursday on related charges. Authorities have indicted Wahi's friend Sameer Ramani, 33, but have not arrested him at this time.

Authorities said that between June 2021 and April 2022 Ishan Wahi would tip off his brother and Ramani when cryptocurrency tokens were about to be listed on Coinbase. Nikhil Wahi 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.'"

Ishan Wahi faces two counts of wire fraud conspiracy and two counts of wire fraud, and his brother faces one count each of wire fraud conspiracy and wire fraud. Ramani was indicted on one count of wire fraud conspiracy and one count of wire fraud.

Coinbase didn't immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.

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