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MIT-educated brothers accused of stealing $25 million in cryptocurrency in 12 seconds in Ethereum blockchain scheme

Washington — A pair of brothers from New York and Boston were taken into federal custody Tuesday, accused by prosecutors of devising a novel criminal scheme to steal about $25 million in cryptocurrency from a commonly used blockchain, according to a newly unsealed indictment. 

Anton and James Peraire-Bueno were charged with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Investigators accused them of spending months plotting their theft within the Ethereum blockchain, baiting their victims and establishing shell companies to hide their illicit profits. 

According to charging documents, the pair studied math and computer science "at one of the most prestigious universities in the country," which prosecutors said afforded them a unique set of skills that allowed them to carry out the first-of-its-kind endeavor in a matter of seconds. James Peraire-Bueno is listed as a 2021 graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the MIT Registrar's Office confirmed that Anton Peraire-Bueno earned a B.S. in computer science and engineering in February 2024, and James Peraire-Bueno earned a B.S. in mathematics, computer science and aerospace engineering in June 2019, as well as a M.S. in aeronautics and astronautics in June 2021.

The brothers allegedly started laying the groundwork in December 2022, engaging in what investigators called a "baiting" operation that targeted three specific victim traders on the digital Ethereum platform. They are specifically accused of exploiting the "validators" on the blockchain, vital components of the integrity and security of transactions. 

"In doing so, they fraudulently gained access to pending private transactions and used that access to alter certain transactions and obtain their victims' cryptocurrency," prosecutors alleged in court documents. 

Investigators said the defendants' plot took months to plan but just 12 seconds to execute, allegedly raking in approximately $25 million from their unwitting victims. 

From April and June of last year, Peraire-Buenos are accused of laundering their money through shell companies. Prosecutors said the duo even rejected repeated requests from a victim, the victim's attorney and an Ethereum representative to return the cryptocurrency. 

They were arrested on Tuesday and are expected to make their initial appearances in New York and Boston federal courts on Wednesday. 

"As cryptocurrency markets continue to evolve, the Justice Department will continue to root out fraud, support victims, and restore confidence to these markets," Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in a statement. 

Attorneys for the brothers could not be immediately identified. 

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