Florida Judge Sentences CEO for Crypto Price Manipulation

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A federal judge in Florida sentenced Michael Kane, the former CEO of Hydrogen Technology Corporation, to 45 months in jail for his role in a cryptocurrency price manipulation scheme. This sentencing, announced on June 24, represents a watershed event in the confluence of cryptocurrency and securities law enforcement.

Florida Judge Delivers Landmark Judgment

According to the US Justice Department, Kane’s sentencing followed his guilty plea to securities fraud charges. This case is important because it is the first time a jury in a federal criminal trial has determined that a cryptocurrency is a security and that manipulating its values constitutes securities fraud.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole Argentieri emphasized the significance of this case, saying, “This prosecution and the sentences imposed today should serve as a warning: the Criminal Division will not hesitate to use all tools at its disposal — including federal securities laws — to protect the integrity of cryptocurrency markets.”

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Another Hydrogen Exec sentenced for 35 months.

Shane Hampton, the former Head of Financial Engineering of Hydrogen Technology, also received a 35-month term for his involvement in the fraudulent operations. The sentences are part of a broader enforcement action against the corporation and its officials by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Justice.

The SEC first filed a complaint against Kane and Hydrogen Technology in September 2022. The claims were upon Kane’s use of the firm’s market maker to influence the volume and price of the company’s Hydro (HYDRO) token. This manipulation increased the token’s market value, misinforming investors and the market. In April 2023, a New York judge ordered Kane and Hydrogen Technology to pay $2.8 million in damages and civil penalties. Criminal indictments against Kane and Hampton were announced simultaneously in the Southern District of Florida.

Crackdown on Crypto Firms

Kane pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to manipulate securities prices, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and two counts of wire fraud. He had been awaiting sentence since November 2023. Hampton, who was convicted of similar crimes in February, had a jury trial and was found guilty. In addition, two more former Hydrogen Technology executives, Andrew Chorlian and Tyler Ostern, pled guilty to their roles in the scam in May 2023.

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This lawsuit is part of a larger crackdown by US authorities on cryptocurrency-related securities fraud. The SEC has been vigorously pursuing civil actions against many cryptocurrency organizations, including well-known names like Coinbase, Ripple, Kraken, and Binance. However, the SEC has apparently halted its efforts to classify Ether as a security.

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