Riccardo Spagni, the former maintainer of the Monero (XMR) cryptocurrency, was arrested last month in Nashville, Tennessee on fraud charges tied to alleged offenses in South Africa between 2009 and 2011.
Spagni was on board a private jet scheduled to fly to Los Cabos, Mexico when he was apprehended in Nashville during a scheduled refueling stop, according to court documents. His journey originally began just outside of New York City. The court documents state he is currently in the custody of the U.S. Attorney General.
The arrest was made at the request of the South African government, which is seeking Spagni’s extradition on fraud charges. The charges, which are unrelated to Spagni’s role at Monero, are tied to his previous employment as an information technology manager at a company called Cape Cookies. Regarding Spagni’s alleged misdeeds, the court documents read:
“As an employee of Cape Cookies, SPAGNI intercepted invoices from another company, Ensync, relating to information technology goods and services it had supplied Cape Cookies. SPAGNI knowingly used false information to fabricate similar invoices purporting to be from Ensync, relying on details including this company's Value Added Tax (VAT) number and bank account information. SPAGNI then inflated the prices for the goods and/or services.”
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The Government of South Africa alleges that the invoices did not contain the real bank account of Ensync, but rather a bank account opened and controlled entirely by Spagni.
In the court filing, Acting United States Attorney Mary Jane Stewart requested that the court deny any bail requests by Spagni “pending resolution of this extradition proceeding.” The document describes Spagni as a flight risk with a strong motivation to flee to avoid facing charges. He’s believed to have “significant crypto-assets” as well as a watch valued at $800,000.
Spagni now faces a hearing on Aug. 5 to determine whether he is held pending trial. If convicted in South Africa, Spagni could face up to 20 years in prison.
Spagni has been involved in the cryptocurrency market since at least 2011 and is active on Twitter under the handle @FluffyPony. He has not tweeted since the arrest on July 20, 2021. In December 2019, he stepped down as lead maintainer of Monero.