Sam Bankman-Fried used stolen customer funds to make more than $100m in campaign contributions ahead of the 2022 US midterm elections, federal prosecutors said on Monday in a new indictment filed against the founder of the FTX cryptocurrency exchange.
The new indictment charges the 31-year-old former billionaire with seven counts of conspiracy and fraud over the collapse of the exchange. He has previously pleaded not guilty.
Bankman-Fried’s personal fortune was once estimated at $26bn and the cryptocurrency mogul was once one of the biggest political donors in Washington.
The indictment alleges that Bankman-Fried concealed the fact that FTX customer deposits were a source of those donations by directing that money from FTX’s sister trading firm, Alameda, be wired to FTX executives’ personal bank accounts. Those executives then make donations in their own names, evading restrictions on certain types of political contributions, and “thereby maximize FTX’s political influence”.
Bankman-Fried “leveraged this influence, in turn, to lobby Congress and regulatory agencies to support legislation and regulation he believed would make it easier for FTX to continue to accept customer deposits and grow, which would, in turn, allow the misappropriation scheme to continue. Bankman-Fried also used these connections with politicians and government officials to falsely burnish the public image of FTX as a legitimate exchange,” the indictment alleges.
Bankman-Fried made more than $40m in donations in 2022, according to a CBS News analysis. Most of those donations were to Democrats, but Bankman-Fried has said he donated equally to Republicans using undisclosed “dark” donations.
The US attorney’s office in Manhattan had initially charged him with violating US campaign finance laws, but dropped that charge in late July after the Bahamas said it had never intended to extradite Bankman-Fried to the US on that charge. FTX was based in the Bahamas and he was arrested there in December 2022.
In a letter last week to US district judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan, prosecutors indicated they would soon file a new indictment that “will make clear that Mr Bankman-Fried remains charged with conducting an illegal campaign finance scheme as part of the fraud and money laundering schemes originally charged”.
Until last week Bankman-Fried had been under house arrest at his parents’ home in California, awaiting an October trial over charges related to the collapse of his cryptocurrency exchange.
On Friday Bankman-Fried’s bail was revoked after prosecutors argued he had “crossed a line” by allegedly sharing his former romantic partner Caroline Ellison’s personal writings with a New York Times reporter.
Prosecutors argued that the move was intended to discredit Ellison, who is expected to testify against him. Bankman-Fried is now being held in Brooklyn’s Metropolitan detention center.
Reuters contributed to this story
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