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Accused Inside Crypto Traders Turn to Veteran Criminal Lawyers

A former Coinbase product manager and his brother turned to veteran criminal defense attorneys to fight the Justice Department’s first-ever cryptocurrency insider trading case.

Ishan Wahi, who once helped oversee listings at a Coinbase unit focused on investment products, is represented by Manhattan criminal defense attorney Andrew St. Laurent and Marc Axelbaum, a white-collar criminal attorney of San Francisco with Big Law Pillsbury.

New York lawyer Priya Chaudhry is representing Nikil Wahi, who was reportedly warned by his brother about tokens that will soon be listed.

The Wahi brothers face criminal fraud charges in Manhattan, in addition to a separate civil suit filed Thursday by the Seattle Securities and Exchange Commission.

The cases are being watched closely as the SEC seeks to regulate cryptocurrencies and a pair of high-profile bankruptcies raise questions in the digital asset market.

The SEC’s civil lawsuit against the brothers could “ultimately form part of the foundation for the SEC to expand its reach into coin offerings,” Duke University law professor James Cox said in a statement. an email.

Chaudhry accused prosecutors of targeting the brothers as a “scapegoat because so many people have recently lost money in cryptocurrency.”

“The government is embarrassed and arresting Nikhil Wahi is a knee-jerk reaction to save face,” she said in an emailed statement.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York has accused Ishan and Nikhil Wahi of engaging in an insider trading scheme while Ishan Wahi worked at one of the largest crypto asset trading platforms. .

Ishan Wahi allegedly shared details with his brother and friend Sameer Ramani about the timing of token listings, information which they then used to trade dozens of tokens for a profit of over $1 million. Ramani remains free, federal prosecutors say

St. Laurent declined to comment on how he and Axelbaum became involved in portraying Ishan Wahi. They said in a joint statement that the allegations against their client were “without merit”.

A longtime litigator, St. Laurent has tried more than 20 federal and state cases, according to his law firm’s biography. His clients also include Harvey Newkirk, a former partner of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner who was sentenced to six months in prison in 2016 for his part in a fraudulent scheme to buy Maxim Magazine. Laurent represented Newkirk in an unsuccessful appeal.

Chaudhry previously worked with St. Laurent before starting her own practice, according to her LinkedIn profile. Among his clients is “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” star Jennifer Shah, who earlier this month pleaded guilty to wire fraud.

Axelbaum directs Pillsbury’s Northern California corporate investigations and white collar defense practice. His representations include advising corporate officials facing federal investigations.

He is also currently representing pharmaceutical company IQVIA in its lawsuit against Veeva Systems for allegedly poaching an executive.

Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion