NY Court Rules on Expert Witness Testimony in Upcoming Trial of Alleged Crypto Fraudster Miles Guo

News | May 27, 2024 By:

On Thursday, May 16, 2024, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York issued several rulings related to expert witness testimony in an upcoming crypto fraud trial.

The case involves defendant Miles Guo, who has been charged with fraud and money laundering related to two cryptocurrencies called Himalaya Coin and Himalaya Dollar. The government alleges that Mr. Guo misrepresented these digital assets as genuine cryptocurrencies when they were actually instruments used in his fraudulent scheme.

Ahead of the trial, both sides filed motions seeking to limit or exclude expert witnesses proposed by the opposing party. The court considered arguments about the qualifications and methods of five experts, three retained by the defendant and two by the prosecution.

For its cryptocurrency expert, the government intends to call Dr. Amin Shams from Ohio State University. His testimony would provide background on blockchain and cryptocurrency technology. Dr. Shams also analyzed trading data and technical features of Himalaya Coin and Himalaya Dollar. Based on factors like price volatility and transaction activity compared to Bitcoin and Ethereum, he concluded these assets displayed atypical characteristics for cryptocurrencies.

The court denied the defendant’s bid to exclude Dr. Shams, finding his analytical framework and conclusions relied on specialized technical knowledge beyond a typical juror’s experience. While the defense can cross-examine his criteria and potential biases, his testimony was sufficiently reliable to be presented at trial.

Mr. Guo’s cryptocurrency expert, Maggie Sklar, was also allowed to testify. As a former regulator and corporate lawyer experienced in the cryptocurrency field, she too could assist jurors in evaluating complex blockchain-related evidence. However, the court barred Ms. Sklar from directly quoting a past audit report, finding that would constitute impermissible hearsay.

The prosecution also sought to limit or exclude three other defense witnesses. Paul Doran, an expert on the Chinese Communist Party, could discuss that entity’s reported tactics against political dissidents based on his professional background. But the court precluded testimony it deemed irrelevant or introducing hearsay from other government agencies.

An accounting analysis by expert Thomas Bishop was wholly excluded, with the court finding he lacked scientific or technical expertise and merely presented subjective category labels for financial records. Lastly, parts of a valuation opinion by expert Raymond Dragon were permitted, while other portions proposing speculative qualitative judgments were disallowed.

Going forward, both sides will present their blockchain and accounting experts at trial within the boundaries established in this ruling, narrowing the permissible scope of certain expert testimony. The court’s role as evidentiary gatekeeper seeks to ensure the reliability and relevance of expert opinions presented to the jury.

Please contact BlockTribune for access to a copy of this filing.