The FBI and Israeli police have announced the arrest of four men involved in an illegal bitcoin exchange and investment scheme reportedly linked to the JP Morgan cyber attack.
The complex global operation included stock market manipulation, spam email attacks and illegal money transfers.
Court filings unsealed by federal prosecutors do not specifically mention the JP Morgan attack, instead focusing on charges involving an orchestrated campaign to drive up the price of penny stocks by pitching them to investors, largely through spam email.
However, US media outlets including The New York Times and Bloomberg have indicated that there are links between the arrests and the hacking of JP Morgan Chase & Co.
JP Morgan revealed last year that a system breach had resulted in the theft of up to 83 million records. A Securities and Exchange Commission document revealed that the hack affected 76 million households and seven million small businesses.
The FBI said that two of the men, Anthony Murgio and Yui Lebedev, from Florida, were charged with running an illegal bitcoin exchange known as Coin.mx since 2013.
The operation enabled customers to exchange cash for bitcoins on payment of a fee. The FBI said that the operation was in violation of federal anti-money laundering laws and regulations.
The court documents also revealed that the defendants were allegedly involved in ransomware attacks that block access to a victim's computer until a fee is paid, usually via bitcoins.
"In total, between approximately October 2013 and January 2015, Coin.mx exchanged at least $1.8m for bitcoins on behalf of tens of thousands of customers," the documents said.
Both men have been charged with one count of conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Two other men, Gery Shalon and Ziv Orenstein, were arrested in Israel for their alleged involvement in a ‘pump-and-dump' stock scheme.
A third man, Joshua Samuel Aaron, an American citizen who also lives in Israel, has been charged but remains at large.
The five men have been known to federal authorities for a number of years, but insufficient evidence prevented them from being charged.
The news comes as law enforcement agencies in the US and the UK are cracking down on cyber criminals.
The UK National Security Agency was recently part of an international operation that closed down the Darkode.me hacking exploit website and led to 28 arrests.
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