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US brothers arrested for stealing $25 million worth of crypto in just 12 seconds

The Ethereum logo seen on a phone

Image source, Getty Images

Two brothers who studied at one of the most prestigious universities in the United States have been accused of stealing $25 million (£20 million) worth of cryptocurrency in 12 seconds.

Anton Peraire-Bueno, 24, and James Peraire-Bueno, 28, are charged with wire fraud and money laundering.

The U.S. Department of Justice said the alleged heist was the first of its kind.

Prosecutors also claim that the two men, who allegedly trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), carried it out in April 2023.

“The Peraire-Bueno brothers stole $25 million in Ethereum cryptocurrency through a technologically sophisticated, cutting-edge scheme that they plotted for months and executed in seconds,” said Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco.

She added that Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents played a key role in uncovering the “first-of-its-kind wire fraud and money laundering scheme.”

Prosecutors say the two men used highly specialized skills they learned at “one of the most prestigious universities in the world” to exploit Ethereum’s transaction validation process.

The brothers studied mathematics and computer science, according to the indictments, and both attended MIT, according to media reports.

“Defendants’ scheme calls into question the very integrity of blockchain,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement Wednesday, referring to the public ledger that records encrypted payments.

The brothers allegedly stole from Ethereum traders by fraudulently accessing pending private transactions and then altering the transactions to obtain their victims’ cryptocurrency.

The process, which investigators say they called “the exploit,” took only seconds to execute.

When confronted by an Ethereum representative, officials said the brothers refused to return the funds and took steps to launder and hide their stolen earnings.

Prosecutors note that this is the first time such a “new” form of fraud has been the subject of criminal charges.

They each face more than 20 years in prison if convicted.

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