In a significant development surrounding the failed cryptocurrency exchange FTX, Ryan Salame, the former co-chief executive of FTX Digital Markets, is reportedly negotiating with federal prosecutors to plead guilty to criminal charges.
According to Bloomberg, these charges are linked to the collapse of the cryptocurrency exchange, which sent shockwaves through the industry. Individuals familiar with the case have revealed that Salame may enter a plea as early as next month, with potential offenses including violations of campaign finance laws.
However, the potential plea deal details and whether Salame will cooperate with prosecutors by testifying against FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried remain uncertain.
Potential Cooperation Against FTX Co-Founder?
Salame’s former colleagues, Gary Wang, Caroline Ellison, and Nishad Singh, have already pleaded guilty to their involvement in the alleged multibillion-dollar fraud that led to the downfall of the now-bankrupt crypto empire. These individuals are expected to serve as key witnesses in the government’s case against Bankman-Fried.
Furthermore, the potential guilty plea from Salame, who played a significant role in fueling FTX’s political donation activities, is expected to intensify the pressure on Bankman-Fried as he approaches his upcoming trial scheduled for October.
Salame, who previously headed FTX’s Bahamas subsidiary, has been under intense scrutiny in criminal and regulatory investigations. He gained notoriety for his extensive political donations, contributing $24 million to support Republican candidates during his tenure at FTX.
Among the recipients of these contributions was Salame’s girlfriend, Michelle Bond, who ran in a 2022 Republican primary for a New York congressional seat.
Per the report, the Federal Election Commission’s data revealed that Bond received thousands in donations from Salame and other FTX figures, including former chief regulatory officer Daniel Friedberg.
Prosecutors later alleged that Bankman-Fried used executives as straw donors to make substantial contributions across party lines, aiming to influence cryptocurrency policy in Washington, D.C.
Separately, five charges against Bankman-Fried, to which he pleaded not guilty, have been separated from his upcoming fraud trial in October and postponed until next year.
Recently, prosecutors dropped one campaign finance charge altogether. However, in a letter filed in federal court, prosecutors emphasized that the “illegal campaign finance scheme” would still constitute a part of the government’s case against Bankman-Fried.
A superseding indictment, expected to be filed next week, will clarify the connection between the campaign finance donations and the money laundering and fraud charges in the case.
Dark Secrets Unveiled
According to Bloomberg, during the investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents seized the phones of both Bond and Salame from their shared residence in Potomac, Maryland, in March.
After joining Alameda Research in 2019, it has been revealed that Salame made substantial investments by acquiring five restaurants in Lenox, Massachusetts, amounting to over $6 million.
The bankruptcy estate and prosecutors have closely monitored assets purchased by certain FTX executives, allegedly funded with commingled customer funds.
In February, FTX contacted political beneficiaries of donations made by Bankman-Fried, Salame, and Nishad Singh, including Super Political Action Committees (PACs) that received millions of dollars, requesting the return of these funds.
As the legal proceedings unfold, the outcome of Ryan Salame’s negotiations with federal prosecutors and his potential cooperation against Sam Bankman-Fried could have far-reaching implications for the future of FTX and the broader cryptocurrency industry.
Featured image from iStock, chart from TradingView.com