Former FTX executive Ryan Salame pleaded guilty to criminal charges stemming from the collapse of the cryptocurrency exchange and agreed to surrender $1.55 billion in assets.
(Bloomberg) — Former FTX executive Ryan Salame pleaded guilty to criminal charges stemming from the collapse of the cryptocurrency exchange and agreed to surrender $1.55 billion in assets.
Salame, who was the co-chief executive of FTX’s Bahamas subsidiary before the exchange imploded last November, appeared in Manhattan federal court on Thursday afternoon. Flanked by lawyers and wearing a dark suit, Salame pleaded guilty to one campaign finance violation and one charge of operating an illegal money-transmitting business.
Salame’s plea followed lengthy negotiations with prosecutors. It comes less than a month before FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried is due to stand trial on charges that he orchestrated a multibillion dollar fraud. Prosecutors claim Bankman-Fried misused FTX customer funds for personal expenses, high-risk bets through affiliated hedge fund Alameda Research and political donations meant to influence crypto regulation.
Read More: Ex-FTX Executive Salame Talking to Prosecutors About Plea Deal
Salame was a member of Bankman-Fried’s inner-circle and a prolific political donor, spending $24 million in support of Republican campaigns during his time at FTX. Prosecutors allege Bankman-Fried used Salame, who ran FTX’s Bahamas subsidiary, and other executives as straw donors.
On Thursday, Salame admitted that he made donations in 2021 and 2022 using money from Alameda accounts.
It remains unclear whether Salame’s plea means he will cooperate with the government and testify against Bankman-Fried. Three of Bankman-Fried’s other close associates — Alameda Chief Executive Officer Caroline Ellison, FTX co-founder Gary Wang and engineering chief Nishad Singh all previously pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate in the hopes of receiving lighter sentences.
A spokesman for Bankman-Fried declined to comment.
The large amount Salame agreed to forfeit as part of his guilty plea was larger than the $700 million prosecutors said they were seeking from Bankman-Fried in January.
Regardless of whether he testifies, Salame’s plea will add another element to the prosecution’s case against Bankman-Fried weeks out from trial. While prosecutors withdrew a campaign finance law charge against the 31-year-old earlier this year, the government has incorporated the alleged political donations scheme into other counts in the case.
(Updates with Salame’s guilty plea)
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