NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. prosecutors charged Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder and former CEO of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, with a host of financial crimes and campaign finance violations on Tuesday, alleging he played a central role in the rapid collapse of FTX and hid its problems from the public and investors.
The indictment says Bankman-Fried allegedly committed a years-long fraud by diverting investors’ funds to his private hedge fund and using the money to make venture investments, lavish real estate purchases and large political donations.
Bankman-Fried, who arrested Monday by Bahamian authorities at the request of the U.S. government, was charged with eight counts, ranging from wire fraud to money laundering to conspiracy to commit fraud on the United States. He was also charged with making more than $25,000 in illegal campaign contributions, a notable charge as Bankman-Fried was one of the largest political donors this year.
The indictment is on top of civil charges announced earlier Tuesday by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which also alleged Bankman-Fried defrauded investors and used proceeds from investors to buy real estate on behalf of himself and family.
Along with the charges, U.S. authorities will seek to have Bankman-Fried forfeit all financial gains he might have received as part of the scheme. They are expected to request his extradition to the U.S., although the timing of that request is unclear. FTX filed for bankruptcy on Nov. 11, when it ran out of money after the cryptocurrency equivalent of a bank run.
The maximum potential prison exposure from these charges is 115 years, according to Nicholas Biase, a prosecutors spokesperson.
Since FTX collapsed, Bankman-Fried has been holed up in his Bahamian luxury compound in Nassau. A spokesman for Bankman-Fried had no immediate comment on the charges Tuesday. He has a right to contest his extradition, which could delay but probably not stop his transfer to the U.S.
Bankman-Fried was one of the world’s wealthiest people on paper; at one point his net worth reached $26.5 billion, according to Forbes. He was a prominent personality in Washington, donating millions of dollars toward mostly left-leaning political causes and Democratic political campaigns, though he also gave money to Republicans. FTX grew to become the second-largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world.
That all unraveled quickly last month, when reports called into question the strength of FTX’s balance sheet. Customers moved to withdraw billions of dollars, but FTX could not meet all the requests because it apparently had used its customers’ deposits to fund investments at Bankman-Fried’s trading arm, Alameda Research.