Ryan Salame, part of the 'inner circle' at the collapsed crypto exchange FTX, sentenced to prison

NEW YORK — A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced former FTX executive Ryan Salame to more than seven years in prison, the first of failed cryptocurrency mogul Sam Bankman-Fried's lieutenants to receive prison time for their role in the cryptocurrency exchange's 2022 collapse .

Salame, 30, was a senior executive at FTX for most of the exchange's existence and was the co-CEO of FTX Digital Markets until its collapse. He pleaded guilty last year to illegally making illegal U.S. campaign contributions and operating an unlicensed money transmission business.

The sentence of 7.5 years in prison, plus three years of supervised release, was more than the five to seven years that prosecutors asked Judge Lewis A. Kaplan to impose on Salame in their pre-sentencing memo.

Although Salame was a senior official at FTX, he did not play a major role in the government's case against Bankman-Fried during his trial earlier this year and did not testify against him. In an effort for leniency, Salame said during the sentencing hearing that he cooperated and even provided documents that helped prosecutors in their cross-examination of Bankman-Fried, as well as in his own prosecution.

In addition to helping Bankman-Fried cover up the holes in FTX's balance sheet that ultimately led to the exchange's failure, Salame was used as a conduit for Bankman-Fried to make illegal campaign contributions to shape U.S. policy on cryptocurrencies . At first glance, Bankman-Fried mainly made political contributions to Democrats and liberal-oriented causes, while Salame made contributions to Republicans and right-oriented causes.

But ultimately, the funds Salame used for these contributions came from Bankman-Fried.

Kaplan said Salame “knew exactly what he was doing… and the whole idea was to hide it from the world.” Astonishing!”

The judge also punished Salame for withdrawing $5 million worth of cryptocurrencies from FTX when the exchange failed.

“You tried to withdraw tens of millions more,” Kaplan said. “It was me first. I get into the lifeboat first. On to all those customers.”

Salame apologized to FTX customers and his family and said he and others had good intentions, though he added: “I fully understand that the means I sought to achieve these goals were illegal.”

Before he was sentenced, Salame gave brief remarks saying he was “beginning my path to redemption.”

“I accept what's next,” he said.

Three other high-ranking executives at FTX are awaiting sentencing for their roles in the stock market's collapse: Caroline Ellison, CEO of FTX hedge fund Alameda Research, Gary Wang, the co-founder of FTX, and Nishad Singh, head of FTX. engineering. All three cooperated with prosecutors and testified at Bankman-Fried's trial in exchange for possible suspended prison sentences.

_____

Associated Press writer Larry Neumeister in New York contributed to this report.

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