Caroline Ellison, the former chief executive of Alameda Research, and Gary Wang, a founder of FTX, are cooperating in the federal criminal case against Mr. Bankman-Fried.
Two former top executives of Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto trading empire have pleaded guilty to federal criminal fraud charges and are cooperating in the prosecution of the disgraced crypto entrepreneur, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York said on Wednesday night.
The two are Caroline Ellison, 28, who was the chief executive of the cryptocurrency hedge fund Alameda Research, and Gary Wang, 29, a founder of FTX, the crypto exchange. They were key lieutenants in Mr. Bankman-Fried’s vast business empire, an international web of investments and enterprises that began with the founding of Alameda and FTX.
Two federal regulatory agencies, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, also filed civil fraud charges against Ms. Ellison and Mr. Wang on Wednesday, building on fraud complaints they brought against Mr. Bankman-Fried last week.
The guilty pleas and cooperation agreements are a major advance in the federal prosecution of Mr. Bankman-Fried, who is in U.S. custody after agreeing to be extradited from the Bahamas to face trial in the Southern District of New York.
The combination of criminal and civil charges against the former top executives puts Mr. Bankman-Fried, 30, in an even more perilous legal position. The federal government has accused him of orchestrating a sweeping, yearslong fraud that culminated in the bankruptcy of FTX last month after the crypto equivalent of a bank run. Now two of his closest advisers are cooperating with the government as it pursues that case.
Mr. Wang and Ms. Ellison were not just close colleagues of Mr. Bankman-Fried. The three lived together in a luxurious penthouse in the Bahamas, where FTX was based, and Mr. Bankman-Fried and Ms. Ellison were at times romantically involved.
misconduct at FTX or Alameda, now is the time to get ahead of it,” he said. “We are moving quickly, and our patience is not eternal.”
Mr. Williams added that Mr. Bankman-Fried was in F.B.I. custody and being brought back to the United States from the Bahamas, and would be presented before a judge as soon as possible. The crypto entrepreneur is expected to appear in Federal District Court as early as Thursday.
Lawyers for Ms. Ellison declined to comment. Ilan Graff, a lawyer for Mr. Wang, said, “Gary has accepted responsibility for his actions and takes seriously his obligations as a cooperating witness.”
During a two-week media blitz before his arrest on Dec. 12, Mr. Bankman-Fried claimed he had done nothing wrong and never intended to defraud anyone. He also claimed he wasn’t fully aware of what was happening at Alameda.
A spokesman for Mr. Bankman-Fried declined to comment.
While the guilty pleas by Ms. Ellison and Mr. Wang still appear to be sealed under court orders, their plea agreements were released by prosecutors on Wednesday night. Ms. Ellison pleaded guilty to seven counts: two counts of wire fraud and five conspiracy counts involving wire, securities and commodities fraud and money laundering. Mr. Wang pleaded guilty to wire fraud and three conspiracy counts, which involved wire, securities and commodities fraud.
where he developed price aggregation systems for Google Flights. Since FTX’s founding, he has kept a low public profile, allowing Mr. Bankman-Fried to become the face of the exchange.
But behind the scenes, Mr. Wang played a key role in FTX, as one of the executives responsible for writing the platform’s software code, according to the S.E.C.
As FTX collapsed, Ms. Ellison gathered a group of Alameda staff members who were working from the company’s office in Hong Kong, and confessed that the firm had used customers’ deposits to fill a shortfall in its accounts. She told them that she, Mr. Bankman-Fried, Mr. Wang and another executive, Nishad Singh, had all been aware of the scheme.