Crypto Price Manipulation and Securities Fraud Lead to Two Prison Sentences



Prison Jail

Two men have been sentenced for manipulating the price of Hydrogen Technology’s cryptocurrency, HYDRO, and scheming to defraud investors.

This case marks the first time a jury in a federal criminal trial has classified a cryptocurrency as a security and found that price manipulation of cryptocurrency constitutes securities fraud.

$300M HYDRO Crypto Fraud Scheme

Court documents and trial evidence revealed that Kane, the co-founder and CEO of Hydrogen Technology, and Hampton, the Head of Financial Engineering at the company, enlisted Moonwalkers Trading Limited of South Africa to manipulate the price of HYDRO. From October 2018 to April 2019, the firm used an automated trading bot to create fake and fraudulent orders on a U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchange.

Kane, Hampton, and their co-conspirators conducted approximately $7 million in “wash trades” and placed over $300 million in “spoof trades” for HYDRO. These trades misled retail investors into purchasing HYDRO at artificially inflated prices, resulting in the conspirators’ profit of approximately $2 million over ten months.

“Shane Hampton, Michael Kane, and their co-conspirators defrauded investors by using a trading bot to manipulate the price of their company’s cryptocurrency,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

Price Manipulation and Securities Fraud

Kane pleaded guilty in November 2023 to one count of conspiracy to commit securities price manipulation, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and two counts of wire fraud. Hampton was convicted by a federal jury on February 7 of one count of conspiracy to commit securities price manipulation and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

The jury unanimously determined that the defendants’ sales of HYDRO were investment contracts, thus classifying the token as a security under federal securities law. This trial was the first criminal jury trial in which a cryptocurrency was deemed a security.

Two additional co-conspirators, Andrew Chorlian and Tyler Ostern, pleaded guilty in May 2023 to one count of conspiracy to commit securities price manipulation and wire fraud. Both have been previously sentenced.

Shane Hampton, 32, of Philadelphia, received a sentence of two years and 11 months in prison. His co-conspirator, Michael Kane, 39, of Miami Beach, Florida, was sentenced to three years and nine months in prison.



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