An ex-CEO of an investment firm has pleaded guilty  to a "cherry-picking" scheme involving crypto futures contracts—in the first case of its kind.

"Cherry-picking" refers to the practice of allocating profitable or unprofitable trades by investment managers and their staff to the accounts they wish in order to reap in profits. Peter Kambolin, the former Chief Executive Officer of Systematic Alpha Management LLC (SAM), admitted fraudulently allocating profits and losses from futures trades in a manner designed to benefit his own accounts, a Thursday Department of Justice announcement said.

He pleaded pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit commodities fraud and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison.


This isn't the first time federal agencies have taken issue with the way Kambolin ran his firm.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) also hit Kambolin, a U.S.-Russian national of Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, with civil charges back in May for defrauding pool participants and managed account customers.

"As alleged, the defendants promised customers investment opportunities would be allocated fairly and equitably among customer accounts and proprietary accounts," Ian McGinley, CFTC director of enforcement, said at the time. "In reality, the defendants took most of the profits and gave the losses to their customers."

It said the scheme generated at least $1,451,559 in total trading profits for SAM and Kambolin's proprietary accounts. Kambolin used the money from the scheme to rent a beachfront apartment; proceeds were also to foreign bank accounts his co-coconspirator controlled in Belarus and Dominica.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said that Kambolin breached client trust for personal profit. "This conduct undermines investor confidence in the commodities markets," she said. Argentieri added that Kambolin's crime underscores the justice department's commitment to "using data analytics to prosecute wrongdoing in the financial markets."


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