F.B.I. Searches Home of Top FTX Executive
The F.B.I. carried out a search on Thursday morning at the Potomac, Md., home of Ryan Salame, a former FTX executive who was a major campaign contributor to Republican political candidates, two people with knowledge of the matter said.
Mr. Salame, who ran FTX’s Bahamian subsidiary, was part of the close circle of advisers around Sam Bankman-Fried, the cryptocurrency exchange’s founder, before the firm filed for bankruptcy in November.
Federal prosecutors have charged Mr. Bankman-Fried with orchestrating a vast fraud and illegal campaign finance scheme at FTX. He has pledged to fight the charges. Three of his former top executives have pleaded guilty in connection with the investigation and agreed to cooperate against their former boss.
Mr. Salame has been under particular scrutiny over the $24 million in campaign contributions he made during last year’s midterm elections. In court filings, federal authorities have claimed that most of the $90 million contributed to political candidates by a handful of former FTX employees, including Mr. Salame, had been misappropriated from customers of the exchange.
The search of Mr. Salame’s $4 million house signals that federal authorities are not done with their investigation into FTX’s collapse as they prepare for Mr. Bankman-Fried’s trial set in October. They are scrutinizing an array of employees and advisers in the former crypto mogul’s orbit, including Mr. Bankman-Fried’s younger brother.
Jason Linder, a lawyer for Mr. Salame, did not respond to a request for comment.
An F.B.I. spokeswoman declined to comment.
It is unclear what the authorities were looking for during the search, which took place around 7 a.m., according to a person who sent a photo of F.B.I. agents gathered outside the home to The New York Times.
A native of Sandisfield, Mass., a town in the Berkshires, Mr. Salame worked for EY, the global accounting and consulting firm better known as Ernst & Young, before working for Mr. Bankman-Fried at Alameda Research, a crypto hedge fund that was based in Hong Kong.
He soon became one of Mr. Bankman-Fried’s most loyal and trusted lieutenants. After FTX relocated to the Bahamas in 2021, Mr. Salame served as an intermediary between the company and the local government, and he was appointed co-chief executive of FTX Digital Markets, the exchange’s Bahamian business entity.
Mr. Salame became enormously wealthy as the crypto market boomed and FTX reached a $32 billion valuation. Bankruptcy lawyers and advisers for FTX said in March that Mr. Salame received $87 million in bonuses and loans from Alameda. He was one of a half-dozen top executives who received a total of $3.2 billion in payouts.
Mr. Salame split his time between Washington and the Bahamas, and he started dating Michelle Bond, who ran a crypto lobbying group and campaigned unsuccessfully for Congress as a Republican from Long Island. At home in the Berkshires, Mr. Salame bought several local restaurants, some that were struggling during the height of the pandemic, which earned him a reputation as a hometown hero.
Mr. Salame and Ms. Bond also bought the home that was searched on Thursday, located in an exclusive suburb of Washington, D.C.
Prosecutors have said Mr. Bankman-Fried orchestrated a “straw donor” scheme to avoid limits on campaign contributions, recruiting executives to serve as proxies for his company and donate tens of millions of dollars to both parties.
A revised indictment against Mr. Bankman-Fried recently identified Mr. Salame’s donations as part of the scheme, saying the FTX founder wanted to keep “dark” his support for Republican politicians.
Emily Flitter contributed reporting.
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