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Fourth Top FTX Executive Pleads Guilty Ahead of Sam Bankman-Fried Trial


Ryan Salame, a former top executive at the cryptocurrency exchange FTX, pleaded guilty on Thursday to criminal charges linked to the sweeping fraud case against FTX’s founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, a move that raises the pressure on Mr. Bankman-Fried ahead of his trial next month.

In a federal courtroom in downtown Manhattan, Mr. Salame pleaded guilty to a campaign finance law violation and a charge of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business.

Mr. Salame said he had made millions in political contributions at the direction of Mr. Bankman-Fried. The contributions were labeled loans from FTX’s sister company, the crypto hedge fund Alameda Research.

“I understood that the loans would eventually be forgiven, and that I would never have to repay them,” Mr. Salame said. Asked whether he was pleading guilty to the counts, he said, “Yes, Your Honor.”

Mr. Salame (pronounced SALEM), who appeared in court in a blue suit, a striped tie and blue socks designed with orange Bitcoin logos, will pay a $6 million fine and more than $5 million in restitution to FTX, and will forfeit two properties in Lenox, Mass., along with a Porsche automobile. He could be sentenced to up to 10 years in a federal prison.

Mr. Salame, 30, who ran FTX’s subsidiary in the Bahamas and was a prolific donor to Republican politicians, is the fourth executive in Mr. Bankman-Fried’s circle of close advisers to admit to criminal conduct since FTX collapsed in November. Three others — Nishad Singh, Caroline Ellison and Gary Wang — have already pleaded guilty to fraud charges and agreed to cooperate against Mr. Bankman-Fried. A representative for federal prosecutors said Mr. Salame was not cooperating with the investigation.

FTX filed for bankruptcy last year in a stunning collapse that has become a symbol of crypto industry hubris. With the help of Mr. Salame, Mr. Bankman-Fried had turned FTX into a household name, endorsed by celebrities and politicians. Then the company imploded over a few days, and customers lost more than $8 billion in deposits.

Mr. Bankman-Fried, 31, was arrested in December and charged with seven criminal counts, including wire fraud and securities fraud. He is accused of using billions of dollars in FTX’s customer funds to finance lavish real estate purchases, political donations and investments in other companies.

He has pleaded not guilty, and his trial is scheduled to begin on Oct. 3. Last month, Mr. Bankman-Fried’s bail was revoked and he was sent to jail after a judge ruled that he had twice tried to interfere with witnesses in the case.

As FTX grew, Mr. Salame became one of crypto’s wealthiest executives and used some of his wealth to buy popular restaurants in the Berkshires. He received $87 million in bonuses and loans from Alameda, according to court records, and was known for his taste for private jets and expensive cars.


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