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SpaceX engineer pleads guilty to DOJ insider trading charges

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SpaceX headquarters in Los Angeles, California.

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A SpaceX engineer pleaded guilty to a Justice Department charge of insider trading, the agency said Thursday after using information obtained on the dark Internet to trade public securities using non-public information.

The DOJ’s criminal case against James Roland Jones of Hermosa Beach, California was investigated by the FBI in 2017.

In the government’s appeal agreement announcement, Jones was identified as a SpaceX engineer, although the agency did not specify whether he was currently working for the space company or whether he was doing so at the time of the fraud.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission also accused Jones of “having carried out a fraudulent operation to sell so-called insider tips.” The SEC did not name SpaceX in its complaint.

SpaceX, the DOJ, and the SEC did not immediately respond to CNBC’s requests for comment.

The DOJ said Jones used the nickname “MillionaireMike” to purchase information such as address, date of birth, and social security number on the dark internet. The SEC-defined dark web “refers to anything on the Internet that is not indexed or accessible through a search engine like Google.”

Jones then used that information to conduct financial transactions on material, nonpublic information, the DOJ claims. In April 2017, an undercover FBI agency gave Jones “alleged inside information regarding a publicly traded company,” the DOJ said.

“From April 18, 2017 to May 4, 2017, Jones and a conspirator conducted numerous securities transactions based on this alleged inside information,” the DOJ said.

The SEC accused Jones of violating the federal securities law. Jones agreed to a forked settlement with the SEC and faces a maximum five-year sentence in federal prison under his request to the DOJ.

“This case shows that the SEC can and will prosecute securities law violations wherever they operate, including the Internet,” said David Peavler, director of the SEC’s Fort Worth regional office, in a statement.

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