- Ryan Salame, a former executive at the now-defunct FTX cryptocurrency exchange.
- Under a negotiated agreement with prosecutors, Salame has agreed to forfeit assets valued at potentially up to $1.55 billion.
- He may be called upon as a witness to provide testimony during the upcoming trial of FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried.
In a recent development, Ryan Salame, a former executive at the now-defunct FTX cryptocurrency exchange, has pleaded guilty to engaging in illegal campaign contributions totaling tens of millions of dollars to U.S. politicians. Additionally, he confessed to his involvement in a criminal conspiracy related to an unlicensed money transfer business. This incident marks the fourth instance of a senior figure associated with FTX or its affiliated entities admitting to criminal charges.
Under a negotiated agreement with prosecutors, the former FTX executive has agreed to forfeit assets valued at potentially up to $1.55 billion. Furthermore, he may be called upon as a witness to provide testimony during the upcoming trial of FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried. Bankman-Fried was arrested in the Bahamas and later extradited to the United States to face multiple allegations of criminal activities related to his leadership of the widely-used digital currency trading platform.
Salame, who is 30 years old, made his guilty plea before a judge in Manhattan. He admitted to misappropriating millions of dollars from a hedge fund overseen by Bankman-Fried to make unlawful political contributions to both Democrats and Republicans in 2020 and 2021. These contributions were intended to support political causes endorsed by Bankman-Fried.
A recently revealed criminal complaint contained private messages in which Salame discussed Bankman-Fried’s intention to support politicians from various parties who were favorable to cryptocurrencies, while also working to oust lawmakers who opposed cryptocurrencies from their positions.
Jason Linder, Salame’s attorney, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Salame is tentatively scheduled for sentencing in March and has been released from federal custody until then. He left the courthouse without speaking to reporters.
In contrast, Bankman-Fried is currently awaiting trial on charges that include defrauding customers by diverting their funds for personal expenses, making illegal campaign contributions, and conducting trades within a separate cryptocurrency hedge fund he established, known as Alameda Research.
Three other executives closely connected to Bankman-Fried—Caroline Ellison, Nishad Singh, and Gary Wang—have already admitted their guilt in related cases. Bankman-Fried’s trial is scheduled to begin in October. Although he has pleaded not guilty, he was recently incarcerated following a judge’s ruling that he attempted to influence potential witnesses in the case, which included sharing Ellison’s private writings with news outlets.
Before its collapse and bankruptcy declaration in November, FTX was a prominent cryptocurrency exchange in the United States. The company even enlisted celebrities like Larry David from “Curb Your Enthusiasm” for television advertisements.
Bankman-Fried and individuals associated with his ventures, including Salame, were substantial contributors to political campaigns, with Salame notably providing significant financial support to Republican candidates.