Three charged in cryptocurrency insider trading scheme including former Coinbase employee

The United States is charging ISHAN WAHI, a former product manager at Coinbase Global, Inc. (“Coinbase”), NIKHIL WAHI, and SAMEER RAMANI, with wire fraud conspiracy and wire fraud in connection with a scheme to commit insider trading by using confidential Coinbase information about which crypto assets were scheduled to be listed on Coinbase’s exchanges. 

         Beginning in approximately October 2020,ISHAN WAHI worked at Coinbase as a product manager assigned to a Coinbase asset listing team. In that role, ISHAN WAHI was involved in the highly confidential process of listing crypto assets on Coinbase’s exchanges and had detailed and advanced knowledge of which crypto assets Coinbase was planning to list and the timing of public announcements about those crypto asset listings.  Beginning at least in August 2021 and continuing through May 2022, ISHAN WAHI was a member of a private Coinbase messaging channel reserved for a small number of Coinbase employees with direct involvement in the Coinbase asset listing process.  The private channel was used to discuss, among other things, “exact announcement / launch dates + timelines” that Coinbase did not wish to share with all of its employees.

On at least 14 occasions beginning at least in June 2021 and continuing through April 2022, ISHAN WAHI knew in advance both that Coinbase planned to list particular crypto assets and the timing of Coinbase’s public announcements of those asset listings and misappropriated that Coinbase confidential information by tipping either his brother, NIKHIL WAHI, or ISHAN WAHI’s friend and associate, SAMEER RAMANI, so that they could place profitable trades in those crypto assets in advance of Coinbase’s public listing announcements. 

After getting tips from ISHAN WAHI, NIKHIL WAHI and RAMANI used anonymous Ethereum blockchain wallets to acquire crypto assets shortly before Coinbase publicly announced that it was listing or considering listing these crypto assets on its exchanges.  Following Coinbase public listing announcements, NIKHIL WAHI and RAMANI sold the crypto assets for a profit.  Based on confidential information provided by ISHAN WAHI, NIKHIL WAHI and RAMANI collectively traded shortly in advance of at least 14 separate Coinbase public listing announcements concerning at least 25 different crypto assets.  As a result of the insider trading scheme, NIKHIL WAHI and RAMANI collectively generated realized and unrealized gains totaling at least approximately $1.5 million.

To conceal their purchases of crypto assets in advance of Coinbase listing announcements, NIKHIL WAHI and RAMANI used accounts at centralized exchanges held in the names of others, and transferred funds, crypto assets, and proceeds of their scheme through multiple anonymous Ethereum blockchain wallets.  NIKHIL WAHI and RAMANI also regularly created and used new Ethereum blockchain wallets without any prior transaction history in order to further conceal their involvement in the scheme.

ISHAN WAHI, 32, of Seattle, Washington, is charged with two counts of wire fraud conspiracy and two counts of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. 

NIKHIL WAHI, 26, of Seattle, Washington, is charged with one count of wire fraud conspiracy and one count of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

SAMEER RAMANI, 33, of Houston, Texas, is charged with one count of wire fraud conspiracy and one count of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

The allegations in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

JEFFREY NEWMAN IS A WHISTLEBLOWER LAWYER WITH THE FIRM NEWMAN & SHAPIRO. JNEWMAN@NEWMANSHAPIRO.COM