Sam Bankman-Fried, the creator of FTX, departed the Bahamas on a flight heading for the United States on Wednesday to face fraud charges as federal prosecutors announced that two of his former associates had pleaded guilty to crimes and were collaborating with the government.
Caroline Ellison, former CEO of Alameda Research, and Gary Wang, co-founder of FTX, pled guilty to defrauding investors in the cryptocurrency trading platform, Manhattan US Attorney Damian Williams stated in a video uploaded to Twitter late Wednesday night.
Two Bankman-closest Fried's former acquaintances deciding to work with the government significantly increased the pressure on the former billionaire.
Williams stated that Bankman-Fried is currently in the custody of the FBI and is en route to the United States, and he urged those involved in the alleged fraud to come forward.
William stated, "If you participated in misconduct at FTX or Alameda, now is the chance to rectify the situation." "We are moving swiftly, and our tolerance is not infinite."
"I also stated that last week's announcement would not be our last, and today's news is no exception," he continued.
In a second statement issued Wednesday evening, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged Ellison and Wang for their roles in a multiyear plan to mislead FTX equity investors.
In addition, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission stated that it had filed allegations of fraud against Ellison and Wang.
A lawyer for Ellison did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
"Gary has accepted responsibility for his acts and takes his responsibilities as a cooperating witness seriously," said Ilan Graff, Wang's attorney, in a statement.
Last Friday, federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged Bankman-Fried with taking billions of dollars in customer assets from FTX to cover losses at his hedge fund, Alameda Research, in what US Attorney Williams described as "one of the worst financial scams in American history."
The 30-year-old cryptocurrency tycoon has admitted to failings in risk management at FTX, but he does not believe he has criminal accountability.
A representative of Bankman-legal Fried's team refused to comment.
Before FTX's catastrophe, Bankman-Fried rode a crypto bubble to become a multibillionaire and a prominent US political donor. However, FTX's crash wiped out his fortune and ruined his reputation. The collapse was precipitated by a tidal wave of customer withdrawals in response to worries about mixing cash with Alameda.
Williams and the SEC made the announcement just hours after Bankman-Fried left The Bahamas after agreeing to be extradited to the United States in court.
On Thursday, Bankman-Fried will likely appear before a federal court in Manhattan, New York. On the occasion of his court appearance, known as an arraignment, he will likely be required to enter a plea. The US court would decide whether to issue bail and, if so, under what terms.
He is likely to be arraigned on the eight charges against him, which include wire fraud, money laundering, and violations of campaign finance laws.
Last week, Bankman-Fried was arrested on a US extradition warrant in The Bahamas, where he resides, and FTX is headquartered. Initially, he stated that he would contest extradition, but Reuters and other news organizations claimed over the weekend that he might change his mind.
According to an affidavit dated December 20 and read in court on Wednesday, he consented to extradition partly because of a "desire to make the relevant consumers whole."
Bankman-Fried, dressed in a suit, entered the courtroom witness box and spoke eloquently and methodically as he was sworn in.
He informed the judge that I wished to forego my right to formal extradition proceedings.
Jerone Roberts, Bankman-defense Fried's attorney, stated that his client was "eager to depart."
The judge stated that he was convinced that Bankman-Fried had not been "forced, bullied, or threatened" into deciding on extradition.
On November 11, the $32 billion exchange declared bankruptcy, and Bankman-Fried resigned as CEO.