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Top FTX executive sentenced to seven and a half years in prison| GuyWhoKnowsThings

Ryan SalameA top executive at the collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX, was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison on Tuesday, making him the first of Sam Bankman-Fried's circle of advisors at FTX to receive a prison sentence.

Salame, 30, a trusted lieutenant of Bankman-Fried, the exchange's founder, pleaded guilty last year on a campaign finance law violation and a charge of operating a money transfer business without a license. He is one of four top deputies in the FTX empire who have pleaded guilty to crimes since the company imploded in November 2022.

Mr. Salame's sentence exceeded the five to seven years that prosecutors had recommended. Defense lawyers had requested a sentence of 18 months.

Before FTX failed, Salame was a key figure in the stock market, overseeing its subsidiary in the Bahamas, where the company was based. As FTX grew into a $32 billion business, Salame spent lavishly. He enjoyed expensive cars and private jets, and bought restaurants in the Berkshires, Massachusetts. He was also a prolific political donor, donating more than $24 million in the 2022 midterm elections, primarily to Republican candidates.

After FTX imploded in November 2022, Salame became the target of federal prosecutors, who searched his house in Maryland. Bankman-Fried was accused of stealing $8 billion from FTX clients and using the money to finance political contributions, venture investments and luxury real estate purchases. Three top FTX executives – Gary Wang, Nishad Singh and Caroline Ellison – pleaded guilty to financial crimes and agreed to cooperate with the government. Everyone awaits sentence.

In September, Mr. Salame also begged guilty, admitting that he had acted as illegal “front donor” who made political contributions under the direction of Mr. Bankman-Fried to evade federal disclosure requirements. In a sentencing memo to Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, prosecutors called it “one of the largest campaign finance crimes in American history.”

As part of his plea deal, Salame agreed to pay a $6 million fine and more than $5 million in restitution, and forfeit two properties in Massachusetts, as well as his Porsche.

In the sentencing memorandum, prosecutors argued that Salame was motivated by a desire for money and influence. Even when FTX collapsed, he withdrew $5 million from the exchange and used the funds to pay personal expenses and hire a public relations firm. Hours before the bankruptcy, prosecutors wrote, Salame withdrew another $600,000 from his account on the American platform FTX.

Last year, Mr. Bankman-Fried was convicted of fraud and conspiracy after a month-long trial in New York. He has been sentenced to 25 years in prison.

In their own memo to Judge Kaplan, Salame's defense attorneys said he did not know that Bankman-Fried was stealing billions of dollars from his clients. That news “was as shocking and disheartening to Ryan Salame as it was to anyone else in the world,” the attorneys wrote.

They said Mr. Salame's life had been “decimated in almost every way possible” and that FTX's demise brought “shame and instability” to his family. Salame is in a long-term relationship with Michelle Bond, a former cryptocurrency industry lobbyist who also supported Bankman-Fried. In November, Mrs. Bond gave birth to the couple's first child, according to the memo. Salame has also begun “seriously grappling” with a substance abuse problem, his attorneys wrote, and plans to attend law school.

Unlike Wang, Singh and Ellison, Salame did not testify against Bankman-Fried in court last year. But her attorneys said she voluntarily submitted documents and “offered assistance and cooperation” to the government as it prepared for trial.

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