Crypto influencer guilty of $110M scheme that shut down Mango Markets

Crypto influencer guilty of $110M scheme that shut down Mango Markets

A jury has unanimously convicted Avi Eisenberg in the US Department of Justice’s first case involving cryptocurrency open-market manipulation, the DOJ announced Thursday.

The jury found Eisenberg guilty of commodities fraud, commodities market manipulation, and wire fraud in connection with the manipulation on a decentralized cryptocurrency exchange called Mango Markets.

Eisenberg is scheduled to be sentenced on July 29 and is facing “a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on the commodities fraud count and the commodities manipulation count, and a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the wire fraud count,” the DOJ said.

On the Mango Markets exchange, Eisenberg was “engaged in a scheme to fraudulently obtain approximately $110 million worth of cryptocurrency from Mango Markets and its customers by artificially manipulating the price of certain perpetual futures contracts,” the DOJ said. The scheme impacted both investors trading and the exchange itself, which had to suspend operations after Eisenberg’s attack made the exchange insolvent.

Nicole M. Argentieri, the principal deputy assistant attorney general who heads the DOJ’s criminal division, said that Eisenberg’s manipulative trading scheme “puts our financial markets and investors at risk.”

“This prosecution—the first involving the manipulation of cryptocurrency through open-market trades—demonstrates the Criminal Division’s commitment to protecting US financial markets and holding wrongdoers accountable, no matter what mechanism they use to commit manipulation and fraud,” Argentieri said.

Mango Labs has similarly sued Eisenberg over the price manipulation scheme, but that lawsuit was stayed until the DOJ’s case was resolved. Mango Labs is expecting a status update today from the US government and is hoping to proceed with its lawsuit.

Ars could not immediately reach Mango Labs for comment.

Eisenberg’s lawyer, Brian Klein, provided the same statement to Ars, confirming that Eisenberg’s legal team is “obviously disappointed” but “will keep fighting for our client.”

How the Mango Markets scheme worked

Mango Labs has accused Eisenberg of being a “notorious cryptocurrency market manipulator,” noting in its complaint that he has a “history of attacking multiple cryptocurrency platforms and manipulating cryptocurrency markets.” That history includes allegedly embezzling $14 million in 2021 while Eisenberg was working as a developer for another decentralized marketplace called Fortress, Mango Labs’ complaint said.

Eisenberg’s attack on Mango Markets intended to grab tens of millions more than the alleged Fortress attack. When Eisenberg was first charged, the DOJ explained how his Mango Markets price manipulation scheme worked.

On Mango Markets, investors can “purchase and borrow cryptocurrencies and cryptocurrency-related financial products,” including buying and selling “perpetual futures contracts.”

“When an investor buys or sells a perpetual for a particular cryptocurrency, the investor is not buying or selling that cryptocurrency but is, instead, buying or selling exposure to future movements in the value of that cryptocurrency relative to another cryptocurrency,” the DOJ explained.

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