Former FTX Executive Ryan Salame Sentenced to 7.5 Years in Prison

Ryan Salame, the former co-CEO of FTX Digital Markets, has been sentenced to 7.5 years in prison following his guilty plea to charges of conspiracy related to unlawful political contributions and operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business. This sentencing, delivered by U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in the Southern District of New York, underscores the serious consequences of his involvement in these federal crimes.

Salame’s sentencing follows his role in the rapid rise and dramatic fall of FTX, the cryptocurrency exchange founded by Sam Bankman-Fried. From 2019 to 2021, Salame held a high-ranking position at Alameda Research, a quantitative cryptocurrency trading firm also founded by Bankman-Fried. In October 2021, he transitioned to become the co-CEO of FTX’s Bahamian affiliate, FTX Digital Markets Ltd.

Salame, alongside Bankman-Fried and other associates, conspired to make unlawful political contributions aimed at advancing the interests of FTX and its affiliates. This campaign involved over 300 political contributions amounting to tens of millions of dollars, made in the name of straw donors or with corporate funds, thereby defrauding the Federal Election Commission. These contributions were strategically designed to enhance Bankman-Fried’s personal influence in Washington, D.C., elevate FTX’s profile, and secure legislative support favorable to their business interests.

Simultaneously, Salame and his co-conspirators operated an unlicensed money-transmitting business. They used FTX, Alameda Research, and an entity called “North Dimension” to transmit customer funds without the necessary licenses, thereby bypassing regulatory oversight and legal requirements. These operations involved making false statements to U.S. banks to facilitate the continuation of their illicit activities.

Salame pleaded guilty in September 2023, admitting his involvement in these schemes. His defense team had requested an 18-month sentence, arguing that Salame held a peripheral role in the conspiracies and had cooperated with authorities by initiating the investigation into FTX. They highlighted that Salame reported fraudulent activities to the Securities Commission of the Bahamas just days before FTX’s collapse in November 2022, when Bankman-Fried stepped down and the firm filed for bankruptcy.

Despite these arguments, Judge Kaplan imposed a 90-month prison sentence, three years of supervised release, and financial penalties including over $6 million in forfeiture and more than $5 million in restitution. The judge’s decision was influenced by the severity of Salame’s crimes and their impact on public trust in the financial system and American elections.

In addition to his prison sentence, Salame agreed to significant financial penalties. He is required to pay approximately $6 million to the U.S. government and an additional $6 million to FTX debtors. Moreover, he will forfeit assets, including two properties and a business. Despite these substantial forfeitures, Salame is allowed to retain his 2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S, as it did not have sufficient equity for further forfeiture proceedings.

Salame’s sentencing is part of the broader legal fallout from FTX’s implosion, which has seen several top executives face criminal charges. Bankman-Fried himself was sentenced to 25 years in prison in March for his role in the fraud that led to FTX’s collapse. Other key figures, including former Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison, FTX co-founder Gary Wang, and former engineering director Nishad Singh, have also pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.