February 9, 2023

In western Massachusetts, Ryan Salame, known as a local boy turned hometown hero, spent some of his fortune as an executive at FTX, the now-defunct cryptocurrency exchange, in the area. Purchased several small restaurants.

In Washington, D.C., Mr. Salame is known as “Theup-and-coming republican superdonorfunding candidates and political action committees, and establishing FTX’s presence as a cryptocurrency heavyweight investing in regulation shaping the nascent industry.

Now, Mr Salame has become a central player in the FTX scandal after he told regulators in the Bahamas, where the exchange is based, that FTX misappropriated billions of dollars in customer funds to support a joint cryptocurrency trading firm called Alameda Research.

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried was arrested in the Bahamas on Monday, accused of lying to investors, lenders and customers about close financial dealings between FTX and Alameda Two firms used as “piggy banks” to commit fraud” Prosecutors said Mr. Bankman-Fried used client funds to trade, buy expensive real estate, invest in other cryptocurrency companies, make political donations and make personal loans to executives.

So far, Mr. Bankman-Fried, who is being held without bail in a Bahamian jail, is the only FTX executive to be charged with wrongdoing. But Damian Williams, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, said the investigation is continuing and prosecutors have yet to finalize charges against individuals.

Mr. Salame’s activities could come under scrutiny because he, along with Mr. Bankman-Fried, was central to FTX’s political influence operations. Mr. Salame, former co-CEO of the company’s Bahamas-based subsidiary FTX Digital Markets, also received a $55 million personal loan from Alameda.

Mr. Salame, pronounced Salem, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. His lawyer, Jason Linder of Mayer Brown, also did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Salame was born in Sandysfield, Massachusetts, a Berkshire town of 1,000 people, and worked briefly at accounting giant Ernst & Young. In 2019, he graduated from Georgetown University with a master’s degree in finance, and then found a job in Alameda, Hong Kong. He later moved to FTX in the Bahamas, where he was the main liaison between the exchange and the local government.

Mr. Salame is not in Mr. Bankman-Fried’s inner circle, but he is deeply loyal to him, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr Bankman-Fried and his closest advisers all share most of the money they make under the banner of “effective altruism”.

By contrast, Mr. Salam sometimes said he used cryptocurrencies because it was a way to get rich, according to a person who knew him. He loves expensive cars, flies in a private jet, and is known to party.

As FTX grew, Mr. Salam began to establish himself in Washington as a major Republican donor. During the midterm elections, Mr. Salame gave $24 million, mostly to Republican candidates and committees, while Mr. Bankman-Fried gave about $40 million, mostly to Democrats. Together they form a giant bipartisan group of donors, with fundraisers of both parties clamoring for a stream of donations that many expect to last decades.

The donations are part of an effort by FTX executives to win over supporters from both political parties as they try to shape U.S. regulation of the cryptocurrency industry.

Craig Holman, an official with Public Citizen, a watchdog group that focuses on ethics, lobbying and campaign finance rules, said the campaign donation records showed “a coordinated effort between the SBF and Ryan Salame, who made sure they turned every corner It’s in hiding.” . “When someone tries to launder money from public officials and candidates, it’s much broader than you typically see.”

Mr. Salam commutes frequently between the Bahamas and Washington, where he lives with his girlfriend, Michelle Bond.The pair soon became a cryptocurrency power couple in the country’s capital, where Ms Bond runs a lobbying group called the Digital Asset Market Association Powered by FTX(Mr. Salame told a colleague that he and Ms. Bond were brought together in part because of their mutual affection for Mr. Bankman-Fried, according to a person familiar with the matter.)

Ms Bond did not respond to a request for comment, but she is pictured with Mr Salam at the top her twitter profile. He has his sameThe couple paid about $4 million in cash this summer for a five-bedroom home in Potomac, Maryland, according to property records.

When Ms. Bond ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for Congress this year in Suffolk County, N.Y., Mr. Salam donated $11,600 to Ms. Bond’s campaign and received support from donald trump jrHer campaign has also been backed by nearly $1.3 million in spending from a super PAC called Crypto Innovation, which gets most of its cash from another PAC that Mr. Salame helped create and finances alongside FTX.

Mr. Salam has made pro bono donations to other Republican candidates and the political action committees that support them. His largest donation — a total of $15 million — went to a political action committee he founded this year called Federal Action for American Dreams, which supports candidates who support cryptocurrencies and pandemic preparedness , which is Mr. Bankman-Fried’s favorite cause.

The fundraiser recalled that Mr. Salame told a campaign fundraiser who helped collect donations from the cryptocurrency industry that he wasn’t particularly interested in politics and suggested his donations were encouraged by others at FTX.

Given the deluge of donations, Mr Salam is seen as a rising star in Washington politics. Invited to a Washington cocktail party last month — just a week before FTX filed for bankruptcy — cheer Mr Salam is an “up-and-coming Republican super-donor”.

Prosecutors are now investigating FTX-related campaign contributions. Mr. Bankman-Fried’s indictment accuses the FTX founder of conspiring to violate campaign finance laws, which prohibit corporations from donating to political candidates’ campaigns and prohibiting donations “in another’s name” — commonly known as “straw” donations. The straw donations may have been used by Mr. Bankman-Fried to enable FTX to make political contributions that exceeded federal election law limits, authorities said. The indictment does not name Mr. Salame or FTX executives other than Mr. Bankman-Fried.

As one of the executives in charge of the exchange’s Bahamian subsidiary, FTX Digital, Mr. Salame was in frequent contact with the country’s securities regulator. On Nov. 9, two days before FTX filed for bankruptcy, Bahamian regulators began investigating potential problems with FTX, according to public court documents. In a phone call with Mr. Salame and other FTX employees, Mr. Salame told Bahamas Securities Commission Executive Director Christine Rolle that client funds from FTX Digital had been transferred to Alameda “to cover Alameda’s financial losses,” according to the filing.

Back in Berkshire, Mr. Salame became a household name when he started his restaurant-buying spree in Lenox, Massachusetts, a quaint New England town that is a favorite of country highland visitors. destination.

A year ago, the Berkshire Eagles in the area local newspaper, pointing out that Mr. Salame’s first job as a teenager was as a dishwasher at a restaurant near Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Mr Salame told the newspaper that he bought his first restaurant, Firefly Gastropub, in the summer of 2020, and that he stepped in because the owner wanted to sell the restaurant after the pandemic hit sales.

A few months later, Mr Salame approached Olde Heritage Tavern owner John McNinch with an offer to buy the restaurant.The restaurant was established five years ago something from the Lenox agency, Burgers, wings, nachos, and chicken pot pies are on the menu.

Mr McNinch said he met Mr Salame when he was in the pub with the restaurant’s previous owner and two others to celebrate the purchase of the Firefly. Mr McNinch, who bought Heritage in 2000, said he hadn’t considered selling it when Mr Salame reached out.

“I didn’t know him at all, that’s how the deal came about,” Mr McNinch said. “I always had a number in my head and he hit it.” Mr McNinch said he was paid more than $1.5 million and closed the deal in March 2021. Negotiations are mostly via email and brokers, he said.

Other purchases followed.Mr Salam rolls them in lenox eating They were collective but largely unaffected, Mr McNinch said. The website lists five restaurants, including an ice cream parlor, with one more on the way.

Mr. McNinch said he contacted Mr. Salam after FTX collapsed to see how he was doing, but did not hear back.

Mr. Salame said on his Lenox Eats biography page that he founded the R Salame Digital Asset Fund in 2021 to provide scholarships to students at the two schools he attended in Berkshire.

His business activities expanded beyond FTX and restaurants. In the summer of 2021, he founded a company in Texas called Governor LLC Lives in another Berkshire town with Ryan Vandervoort, also 29. The company name appears to be a reference to Dogecoin, one of many crypto coins that have soared in value at one point.

Property records show the company was involved in multiple apartment purchases in Port Isabel, Texas, and South Padre Island, Texas.

Reached by phone, Mr. van der Voort said he did not wish to comment on his relationship with Mr. Salam.

“If you are interested in any information about his business, you should contact him,” Mr van der Voort said.

Emily Fleet Contribution report. Kirsten Noyce contributed research.

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