SpaceX engineer pleads guilty to DOJ insider trading charges
SpaceX headquarters in Los Angeles, California.
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A SpaceX engineer pleaded guilty to a Department of Justice charge of insider trading, the agency announced on Thursday, after using information obtained on the dark web to trade public securities with non-public information.
The DOJ’s criminal case against James Roland Jones of Hermosa Beach, California, came following an investigation by the FBI in 2017.
The government’s announcement of the plea agreement identified Jones as a SpaceX engineer, although the agency did not specify whether he currently works for the space company, and whether he did at the time of the fraud.
The Securities and Exchange Commission simultaneously charged Jones with “perpetrating a fraudulent scheme to sell what he called ‘insider tips'” on the dark web in exchange for bitcoin. The SEC did not name SpaceX in its complaint.
The case doesn’t appear to be related to info about or regarding SpaceX.
SpaceX, the DOJ and the SEC did not immediately respond to CNBC’s requests for comment.
The DOJ said Jones used the moniker “Millionaire Mike” to purchase information – such as address, dates of birth, and social security numbers – on the dark web. The dark web, as defined by the SEC, “refers to anything on the internet that is not indexed by, or accessible via, a search engine like Google.”
Jones then used this information to conduct financial transactions on material, non-public information, the DOJ alleges. In April 2017, an undercover FBI agency gave Jones “purported insider information related to a publicly traded” company, the DOJ said.
“From April 18, 2017, until May 4, 2017, Jones and a conspirator conducted numerous securities transactions based on this purported insider information,” the DOJ said.
The SEC charged Jones with antifraud violations of federal securities law. Jones agreed to bifurcated settlement with the SEC, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison under his plea with the DOJ.
“This case shows that the SEC can and will pursue securities law violators wherever they operate, even on the dark web,” SEC’s Fort Worth Regional Office Director David Peavler said in a statement.