Ryan Salame, the former co-CEO of FTX Digital Markets, has pleaded guilty to charges related to defrauding the United States Federal Election Commission (FEC) and conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money-transmitting business.
According to a Sept. 7 announcement from the U.S. Justice Department, Salame pleaded guilty before a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, making him the fourth major player connected to defunct crypto exchange FTX facing criminal charges to do so. The former co-CEO could face years in prison for the campaign finance charge as well as additional time related to operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business.
The campaign finance charges were reportedly related to contributions for the 2022 congressional campaign of Salame's girlfriend, Michelle Bond. FEC records showed the former FTX exec made 2 donations of $2,900 each to support Bond's campaign in Massachusetts for the primary, as well as 2 donations of $2,900 each for the general election. Reports suggested he also made campaign contributions on behalf of a corporation, violating U.S. law.
“I made $10 million in political contributions and called them loans, which I never intended to repay,” said Salame, according to a Sept. 7 thread on X (formerly Twitter) from Inner City Press. “This was supported by Sam Bankman-Fried. I knew it was prohibited. [...] As Alameda’s head of settlements I used banks, one used in California. I was unaware licensure was required. But now I know.”
The former FTX executive pleaded guilty to the criminal charges, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Samuel Raymond reportedly said he would make a submission to probation following the criminal trial of former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), scheduled to begin on Oct. 3. Salame will reportedly pay roughly $6 million in penalties to the U.S. government, pay more than $5 million to FTX debtors and surrender two properties in Massachusetts as well as a Porsche in his name.
At the time of publication, Salame remained free on a $1 million bond, with sentencing potentially looking to be held on March 6, 2024 — a few days before Bankman-Fried's second criminal trial is set to begin. Former Alameda Research CEO Caroline Ellison, FTX co-founder Gary Wang and FTX’s former engineering director Nishad Singh have already pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges, while SBF has pleaded not guilty.