The U.S. Department of Justice today announced criminal charges in a case involving a hack on an unnamed decentralized exchange (DEX)—the first of its kind.

According to a Tuesday indictment, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said that Shakeeb Ahmed, a top engineer at an international technology company, "used his expertise to defraud the exchange" and allegedly steal $9 million in crypto on July 2-3, 2022.

It further alleged that the 34-year-old New York resident used different blockchains—including privacy coin Monero—and overseas crypto exchanges to hide the trace of the funds. He then allegedly made an agreement with the DEX to return all of the stolen funds except for $1.5 million.


“It doesn’t matter whether someone steals money from a bank or defrauds a decentralized crypto exchange—it’s all fraud, plain and simple,” Williams said in a Twitter video. 

Though the DEX hasn’t been named in the indictment, it may be related to the Solana-based liquidity protocol Crema Finance hack that happened at that time last year, when a thief made away with $9 million in digital assets in a flash loan attack but then returned most of the cash. 

Days after the attack, Ahmed allegedly made Internet searches for “defi hack,” and looked for information on how to flee the United States, cross borders with crypto, and buy citizenship elsewhere, the DOJ said. 

A DEX is a digital asset exchange that allows users to trade tokens without a middleman. 


Unlike centralized, major crypto exchanges Binance or Coinbase, anyone can use a DEX and start trading without having to follow know-your-customer (KYC) protocols such as providing a name, address, or ID. 

Tuesday’s indictment added that Ahmed is charged with wire fraud and money laundering, each of which carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Editor's note: This story was updated after publication to add more information.

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