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DOJ Charges 2 Brothers With ‘Cutting-Edge Scheme’ to Steal Cryptocurrency

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the unsealing of an indictment Wednesday (May 15) charging two brothers with crimes resulting from an alleged “cutting-edge scheme” in which they stole $25 million worth of cryptocurrency from the ethereum blockchain.

Anton Peraire-Bueno, 24, of Boston, and James Peraire-Bueno, 28, of New York, were arrested Tuesday (May 14) and charged Wednesday with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, the DOJ said in a Wednesday press release.

“As alleged in today’s indictment, the Peraire-Bueno brothers stole $25 million in Ethereum cryptocurrency through a technologically sophisticated, cutting-edge scheme they plotted for months and executed in seconds,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in the release. “Unfortunately for the defendants, their alleged crimes were no match for Department of Justice prosecutors and IRS agents, who unraveled this first-of-its-kind wire fraud and money laundering scheme.”

The indictment alleges that the defendants tampered with the process and protocols by which transactions are validated and added to the ethereum blockchain, gained access to pending private transactions, altered certain transaction and obtained their victims’ cryptocurrency, according to the release.

Following the theft, the defendants received requests to return the stolen cryptocurrency but instead kept it and took steps to hide it, the release said.

Before, during and after they did these things, the defendants searched online for information about how to carry them out, how to conceal their involvement and how to launder the criminal proceeds, per the release.

If convicted, they face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each count, according to the release.

“As we allege, the defendants’ scheme calls the very integrity of the blockchain into question,” Damian Williams, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, whose office indicted the brothers, said in the release.

Blockchain data firm Chainalysis said in February that illicit addresses sent $22.2 billion worth of cryptocurrency to services in 2023, down from the $31.5 billion sent in 2022.

The firm attributed this decline in crypto money laundering to reduced crypto activity, as there was an overall decrease in crypto transaction volume.