SpaceX engineer pleads guilty to selling insider trading tips on dark web

FILE PHOTO: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken lifts off during NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., May 30, 2020. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An engineer working for Elon Musk’s SpaceX pleaded guilty on Thursday to conspiracy to commit securities fraud by selling insider tips on the “dark web”, the U.S. Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said on Thursday.

The case was the first in which the SEC has brought an enforcement action alleging securities violations on the dark web, it said.

James Roland Jones of Redondo Beach, California, faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison, the Department of Justice said. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

According to the agencies, from 2016 until at least 2017, Jones conspired with another unnamed person to access various dark web marketplaces, including a website claiming to be an insider trading forum, in search of material, non-public information to use for his own securities trading.

The dark web allows users to access the internet anonymously and is often used to host websites that support illegal activity. Jones could not be reached for comment.

Jones also devised a scheme to sell what he falsely claimed were insider tips on the dark web, the agencies said. Several users paying in bitcoin purchased these tips and ultimately traded based on the information Jones provided, they said.

Reporting by Michelle Price; editing by Richard Pullin