Crypto Capital's NFL defendant open to guilty plea, but not for $371M

The legal team for Reginald Fowler said the former minority owner of the Minnesota Vikings is open to a guilty plea regarding his involvement in Crypto Capital’s alleged shadow banking practices, provided forfeiture is not part of the deal.

The company is a key player in the ongoing court case over Bitfinex’s failure to disclose the loss of $850 million in customer funds. The exchange claims the funds were deposited with Crypto Capital before being seized by government authorities in various countries.

According to Law360, Fowler’s lawyers stated that a January plea deal with the U.S. government “blew up” because it left the former NFL team owner on the hook for $371 million. The legal team made the comments during a phone status conference held on Oct. 15 in the Southern District of New York.

Authorities originally charged Fowler with bank fraud, illegal money transfers, and conspiracy connected to Crypto Capital’s alleged shadow banking practices in 2019, and later added a charge for wire fraud in February.

The $371 million demanded as part of the plea deal is reportedly based on the proceeds generated by Fowler’s alleged crimes. However, his legal team has argued that Fowler’s actions did not generate losses for any victims, and his holdings are not subject to forfeiture.

The federal judge overseeing the case, Andrew L. Carter Jr., stated that Fowler could still accept a guilty plea and later contest the forfeiture of the assets:

“Even if the government doesn’t extend any offer, Mr. Fowler could plead to the indictment, without admitting the forfeiture allegation, and there could be a separate proceeding.”

Fowler is accused of acting as an unlicensed money transmitter and lying to financial institutions regarding the purpose of his accounts. Through the Panama-based firm Crypto Capital, he allegedly provided shadow banking services to numerous cryptocurrency exchanges, including Bitfinex, Binance, and QuadrigaCX.

Fowler has pleaded not guilty to all charges. Others connected to the case include Crypto Capital’s president, Ivan Manuel Molina Lee, whom Polish authorities arrested in 2019 on suspicion of money laundering and having ties to an international drug cartel. The same year, in the United States, authorities indicted Oz Yosef, also a former executive at Crypto Capital, on conspiracy to commit bank fraud and conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transfer service.

Fowler is out on $5 million bail — which seems to be the going rate for alleged crypto offenders. Unless he accepts a plea deal, his trial is scheduled to begin in January 2021.

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