The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has charged five individuals with conspiring to manipulate the market in relation to an alleged scheme involving the Hydro (HYDRO) token. The charges include conspiracy to commit securities price manipulation and wire fraud. The three individuals charged with manipulating the market for Hydro are Michael Ross Kane, the former CEO of Hydrogen Technology Corp.; Shane Hampton, Hydrogen’s chief of financial engineering; and George Wolvaardt. The other two individuals were charged separately for their alleged roles in the scheme. Tyler Ostern, the former CEO of Moonwalkers, and Andrew Chorlian, a blockchain engineer from Hydrogen Technology Corp., were also charged for their involvement in the alleged manipulation scheme.
According to the indictment, from June 2018 through April 2019, Kane, Hampton, and Wolvaardt defrauded market participants looking to trade the Hydro tokens that Hydrogen issued. Wolvaardt, who was the chief technology officer for a market-making firm called Moonwalkers Trading Limited, designed a trading bot that executed a number of high-value “spoof orders” at obscure intervals to make it appear as though there was high demand for the token. The bot also bought and sold large volumes of the token from the same account, a practice known as wash trading.
The alleged manipulation of the Hydro token price resulted in the co-conspirators making an approximate total of $2 million in ill-gotten profits. The DOJ claims that following the artificial manipulation of the token’s price, the co-conspirators sold large chunks of their holdings.
Kane, Hampton, and Wolvaardt have each been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit securities price manipulation, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and two counts of wire fraud. If found guilty on all charges, they each face a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment in relation to the conspiracy to commit securities price manipulation charge and a staggering 20 years in prison on each of the other charges. Ostern and Chorlian have each been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit securities price manipulation and wire fraud. If found guilty, they face a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
In a separate case brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Hydrogen Technology Corporation and former CEO Michael Ross Kane were ordered to pay $2.8 million in remedies and civil penalties. On April 20, a New York District Court judge ruled against Hydrogen Technology Corporation and Kane in the case. The SEC alleged that Hydrogen and Kane had made false and misleading statements to investors about the company’s financial performance and the development of its technology.
In conclusion, the charges against the five individuals for market manipulation of the Hydro token highlight the importance of transparency and fairness in the cryptocurrency market. The DOJ’s efforts to prosecute individuals who engage in fraudulent activities in the cryptocurrency market sends a strong message that such activities will not be tolerated.