One of the ringleaders of a crypto manipulation scheme, a former executive with a Miami-based fintech firm, has been convicted on conspiracy charges in connection with the plot.

Shane Hampton, former head of financial engineering with Hydrogen Technology Corp., was found guilty by a federal jury on charges of conspiracy to commit securities price manipulation and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

According to U.S. authorities, the evidence presented at trial showed Hampton and his co-conspirators hired a South African firm, Moonwalkers Trading Ltd., to manipulate the market in the company’s crypto token, HYDRO, by operating an automated trading bot that placed over US$300 million worth of spoofing trades and executed US$7 million in wash trades to distort the token’s market.

“Collectively, these spoof and wash trades were designed to, and did, fraudulently induce retail investors to purchase HYDRO so that Hampton and his co-conspirators could sell Hydrogen Technology’s own holdings of HYDRO,” it said.

Previously, the CEO of Hydrogen Technology, Michael Kane, and another engineer at the firm, Andrew Chorlian, pled guilty to charges for their roles in the scheme. They are awaiting sentencing. Hampton is scheduled to be sentenced on April 29.

The CEO of Moonwalkers Trading Ltd., Tyler Ostern, also pled guilty to conspiracy charges and was sentenced to two years in prison.

Last year, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) obtained final judgments against Kane, Ostern and Hydrogen.

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Hydrogen and Kane agreed to pay almost US$3 million in disgorgement, prejudgment interest and penalties, along with conduct sanctions. Ostern consented to a final judgment that included more than US$40,000 in disgorgement, but no monetary penalties, based on his cooperation with the SEC’s investigation.