FTX founder Bankman-Fried’s colleagues plead guilty to fraud

Gary Wang and Caroline Ellison have agreed to cooperate with the authorities, according to US prosecutors.

FTX logo on black and gold-coin background
Two of FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried’s colleagues have pleaded guilty to fraud-related charges, according to US authorities [File: Dado Ruvic/Reuters]

Two of FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried’s colleagues have pleaded guilty to fraud-related charges in connection with the collapse of the cryptocurrency exchange, according to United States authorities.

FTX co-founder Gary Wang, and the former chief executive of Alameda Research, Caroline Ellison, admitted to the charges and have agreed to cooperate with authorities in their ongoing investigations, the US attorney for New York’s Southern District, Damian Williams, said in a statement late on Wednesday.

Williams did not specify what charges Wang and Ellison pleaded guilty to but said the announcement would not be the last his office makes concerning its investigation into FTX.

“Let me reiterate a call I made last week. If you participated in misconduct at FTX or Alameda, now is the time to get ahead of it. We are moving quickly and our patience is not eternal,” Williams said.

“We continue to work around the clock and we are far from done,” he added.

In separate announcements on Wednesday, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced civil charges against Ellison and Wang.

“As part of their deception, we allege that Caroline Ellison and Sam Bankman-Fried schemed to manipulate the price of FTT, an exchange crypto security token that was integral to FTX, to prop up the value of their house of cards,” said the SEC’s Chairperson Gary Gensler.

“We further allege that Ms Ellison and Mr Wang played an active role in a scheme to misuse FTX customer assets to prop up Alameda and to post collateral for margin trading. When FTT and the rest of the house of cards collapsed, Mr Bankman-Fried, Ms Ellison, and Mr Wang left investors holding the bag. Until crypto platforms comply with time-tested securities laws, risks to investors will persist.”

The SEC said Ellison and Wang were cooperating with its ongoing investigations.

The CFTC’s Chairman Rostin Behnam said the agency had moved “aggressively to hold all individuals who commit fraud accountable and protect customers from additional harm and losses”.

“In the absence of a comprehensive regulatory framework over digital assets, the CFTC will use all of its existing power and authority to protect all market participants, while ensuring the integrity of commodity markets,” Behnam said.

The announcements came shortly after Bankman-Fried departed the Bahamas following his extradition to the US, where he faces eight charges including wire fraud, money laundering and campaign finance violations.

A lawyer for Bankman-Fried declined to comment.

Bankman-Fried, who once ranked as the world’s richest millennial after Mark Zuckerberg, was arrested in the Caribbean nation last week after US authorities announced charges over what prosecutors described as “one of the biggest financial frauds in American history.”

Among other alleged wrongdoing, Bankman-Fried is accused of stealing the deposits of FTX customers to fund risky bets by Alameda, an affiliated trading company, and political donations.

Bankman-Fried’s arrest capped a stunning fall from grace for the 30-year-old former golden boy of the crypto sector, who courted famous backers – including Seinfeld creator Larry David and NFL star Tom Brady – and was counted among the most well-connected donors in Washington, DC.

The collapse of FTX, which was once valued at $32bn, has fuelled scepticism about the trustworthiness of cryptocurrencies, prompting calls for tighter regulation and raising questions about the future of virtual assets generally.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies