2 brothers charged with theft of $25M of crypto in 12 seconds

Two brothers have been arrested and charged with wire fraud after federal prosecutors in Manhattan accused them of stealing around $25 million worth of cryptocurrency from traders in an elaborate online heist that prosecutors described as a “first-of-its kind” scheme.

Anton Peraire-Bueno, 24, of Boston, and James Peraire-Bueno, 28, of New York, allegedly carried out “a technologically sophisticated, cutting-edge scheme they plotted for months and executed in seconds,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in a statement Wednesday.

Prosecutors accused the men of fraudulently gaining access to pending cryptocurrency transactions on the ethereum blockchain and then redirecting the proceeds in April 2023.

Lawyers representing Anton Peraire-Bueno did not immediately respond to an overnight request for comment and the identity of James Peraire-Bueno’s attorneys was not immediately clear.

According to the unsealed indictment, the two brothers “studied mathematics and computer science at one of the most prestigious universities in the country.” They used “the specialized skills developed during their education, as well as their expertise in cryptocurrency trading” to exploit the integrity of ethereum, a decentralized blockchain network that has hosted an average of more than a million transactions per day since at least 2023, the indictment alleged.

While the indictment did not name the university the brothers attended, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology confirmed in an email that Anton Peraire-Bueno earned a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering in February 2024, while James Peraire-Bueno earned a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics with Computer Science, and in Aerospace Engineering in June 2019, as well as a master’s degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics in June 2021.

According to the indictment, the two men “manipulated and tampered with the process and protocols by which transactions are validated and added to the ethereum blockchain,” thereby gaining fraudulent access to pending transactions and giving them the ability to steal funds.


“Once they put their plan into action, their heist only took 12 seconds to complete,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York.

In December 2022, they created and shared an online document with each other that laid out their plans, before engaging in test or “bait” transactions to identify three victim traders, according to prosecutors. After stealing approximately $25 million from them in April 2023, the brothers took “numerous steps” to hide their identity, including setting up shell companies and using multiple private cryptocurrency addresses and foreign cryptocurrency exchanges to hide the money, prosecutors alleged.

The brothers then ignored repeated requests from one of the victims, their lawyer and a representative from ethereum to return the stolen money, and instead carried out transactions in an attempt to hide both the source and ownership of the funds, according to the indictment.

The pair were arrested Tuesday. Each brother is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. If convicted, they face a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison for each count.

“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,” Monaco, the deputy attorney general, said in her statement, adding that the Department of Justice would continue to root out fraud and support victims, “as cryptocurrency markets continue to evolve.”