There are plenty of legal ways to discreetly funnel millions of dollars into the American political process, but former FTX co-CEO Ryan Salame went another direction. On Thursday, he pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and to operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business—marking the official downfall of man who traveled by private jet and Porsche.
He is the fourth former executive from the crypto exchange to plead guilty.
Salame, who will temporarily remain free on a $1 million bond, said he made $10 million in political donations with funds that were loaned to him by FTX, but which he did not expect to repay. He claimed he did so at the behest of FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, who is detained in Brooklyn in advance of a fraud trial slated for October.
Prior to his arrest, Bankman-Fried branded himself a champion of liberal causes, but as he later acknowledged, that positioning was mainly theater. He also made “dark money” donations to Republicans in an effort to win new allies, and he allegedly utilized emissaries like Salame to do the same.
Salame, 30, is reportedly not cooperating with prosecutors at this juncture, unlike three of his former peers, Caroline Ellison, Nishad Singh, and Gary Wang, who could testify against their former boss.
The charges against Salame carry a total possible prison term of 10 years, and as part of his plea he has agreed not to appeal any sentence below that number.
If convicted, Bankman-Fried faces a possible life sentence. He won a minor victory in July, when prosecutors dropped his campaign finance charge because of complications related to his extradition agreement from the Bahamas, though the topic may still come up in his trial in reference to other alleged violations.
Salame is slated to be sentenced next spring. As part of his plea, he agreed to give up millions of dollars in assets, including two properties and the Porsche.