By JAKE OFFENHARTZ (Associated Press)
NEW YORK (AP) — A former top executive at failed cryptocurrency exchange FTX pleaded guilty Thursday to making tens of millions of dollars in illegal campaign contributions to U.S. politicians and engaging in a criminal conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transfer business.
Ryan Salame, the former co-chief executive of FTX Digital Markets, is the fourth high-ranking official at the company or its subsidiaries to plead guilty to a crime.
As part of a deal with prosecutors, he agreed to forfeit up to $1.55 billion in assets. He could also be called as a witness to testify in the trial of FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, who was arrested in the Bahamas last year and extradited to the United States to face allegations that he helped manage the popular digital currency committed numerous crimes trading platform.
Salame, 30, entered his plea before a Manhattan judge and admitted in court that he illegally used millions of dollars from a hedge fund controlled by Bankman-Fried in 2020 and 2021 to make political donations to both Democrats and Democrats to make to Republicans.
The purpose of these donations, he said, is to fund policy initiatives supported by Bankman-Fried. In a criminal complaint unsealed Thursday, prosecutors said they received private messages in which Salame wrote that Bankman-Fried wanted to support politicians from both parties who were “pro-crypto” while also working to exclude “anti-crypto” lawmakers to force the office.
In an emailed statement, Jason Linder, an attorney for Salame, said his client “looks forward to putting this chapter behind him and moving forward with his life.”
Salames’ sentencing was tentatively scheduled for March. He was released from federal custody by then and left the courthouse without speaking to reporters.
Bankman-Fried is awaiting trial on charges that he defrauded customers by diverting their money to cover his expenses, made illegal campaign contributions and made trades at a separate crypto hedge fund he founded, Alameda Research.
Three other executives close to Bankman-Fried have already pleaded guilty: Caroline Ellison, Nishad Singh and Gary Wang.
Bankman-Fried’s trial is scheduled for October.
Bankman-Fried pleaded not guilty. He was out on bail while awaiting trial, but was recently jailed after a judge ruled that he tried to influence potential witnesses in the case, including by leaking Ellison’s private writings to news organizations.
Before FTX collapsed and filed for bankruptcy in November, Bankman-Fried was one of the best-known US crypto entrepreneurs. His company hired celebrities, including “Curb Your Enthusiasm” star Larry David, to appear in television commercials.
Bankman-Fried and people associated with his companies, including Salame, have also been major donors to political campaigns.
Salame was one of the biggest donors to conservatives in the last election cycle, giving more than $20 million to Republican candidates and causes, according to federal election records. In a private message to a confidant, Salam said the donations routed through him were intended to “weed out” cryptocurrency opponents on the Republican side, prosecutors said in a court filing.
After the criminal charges against Bankman-Fried became public, many lawmakers rushed to return donations. Prosecutors have not accused the recipients of the donations of wrongdoing.
https://www.twincities.com/2023/09/07/former-ftx-crypto-executive-pleads-guilty-to-making-millions-in-illegal-campaign-contributions/ Former FTX Crypto Executive Pleads Guilty to Making Millions of Dollars in Illegal Campaign Contributions – Twin Cities