Factbox: Major cryptocurrency cases probed by U.S. authorities


NEW YORK, Dec 14 (Reuters) – Charges brought by US prosecutors against Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, on Tuesday they were among the highest-profile filed against a crypto player. It was the latest in a series of cases involving digital assets that US regulators and prosecutors have been investigating.

Here is a summary of some of those civil and criminal cases, and their results:

bitfinex hack

The United States Department of Justice in February loaded a husband and wife team accused of conspiring to launder 119,754 stolen bitcoins after a hacker broke into the Bitfinex digital currency exchange in 2016 and initiated more than 2,000 unauthorized transactions. The couple is in talks with prosecutors about a possible guilty plea, court records show.


BitMEX employees, including the founders of the cryptocurrency exchange, pleaded guilty this year to knowingly failing to establish, implement and maintain programs to prevent money laundering. the company co-founders pleaded guilty in New York federal court and each agreed to pay a $10 million criminal fine.

Another of the firm’s employees. also pleaded guiltyand agreed to a $150,000 fine.

Federal prosecutors originally filed the criminal charges in 2020.

In 2021, the exchange agreed to pay a civil penalty to settle separate charges from the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) unit of the US Department of Treasury.

A BitMEX spokesperson this week declined to comment on the charges against its former employees.

At the time the case with the CFTC and FinCEN was settled, the company’s CEO emphasized its strong anti-money laundering and compliance capabilities.


A subsidiary of crypto company BlockFi Inc has agreed to pay a record $100 million penalty to the SEC and state regulators to settle civil charges related to an interest-bearing loan product it offered to nearly 600,000 investors.

BlockFi, what declared bankrupt as of November 29, it still owes $30 million of the $50 million civil penalty it agreed to pay to the SEC, according to a court filing.

A spokesperson for the firm did not respond to a request for comment this week, but in a statement at the time said the resolution of the case is an example of the firm’s “pioneering efforts to ensure regulatory clarity for the broader industry and our clients”.


The Manhattan US Attorney’s Office and the SEC indicted a former product manager at cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, his brother and friend in an alleged insider trading scheme in July. The cases marked the first insider trading charges involving cryptocurrencies.

Former Coinbase Employee pleaded not guilty to the charges. His brother changed a previous statement guilty through an agreement with prosecutors. A third defendant has been charged but is still at large.

Coinbase criticized the SEC charges, saying in a blog post at the time that the stock is not listed and that the agency was seeking “enforcement regulation.”


In 2019, US authorities indicted the alleged leaders of a multi-billion dollar pyramid scheme involving a fraudulent cryptocurrency called OneCoin. One of the leaders is still on the run and the other has pleaded not guilty.


Federal prosecutors in Manhattan in June accused a former product manager at OpenSea, an online marketplace for non-fungible tokens, with insider trading. The charge marked the first case of its kind involving digital assets.

Prosecutors said the former product manager secretly bought NFTs based on confidential information that the tokens, or others from the same creator, would soon appear on the OpenSea home page.

OpenSea this week pointed to its earlier statement on charges that it launched an investigation and asked the employee to leave the company.


The SEC in December 2020 sued blockchain payment company Ripple and two executives, alleging that they had been conducting an unregistered $1.3 billion stock offering.

The San Francisco-based company, which founded the XRP cryptocurrency in 2012, has been embroiled in a multi-year court battle with the regulator.

Ripple has asked a judge to find that XRP is not a security and therefore not subject to SEC oversight. The case has wide potential legal consequences for the industry, which occupies a regulatory gray area in the United States.

A Ripple spokesperson did not provide an updated comment this week.


The SEC in October 2019 halted a $1.7 billion unregistered digital token offering by the messaging service Telegram Group and its subsidiary TON Issuer. After a six-month court battle, Telegram agreed to pay an $18.5 million civil penalty and return $1.2 billion to investors.

The firm, which neither admitted nor denied the SEC’s findings, did not respond to a request for comment.

Reporting by Chris Prentice and Luc Cohen, editing by Deepa Babington

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