Former maintainer for Monero, Riccardo “Fluffypony” Spagni, has been arrested in the United States after allegedly running from fraud charges in South Africa.
U.S. Marshals took well-known cryptocurrency figure Riccardo Spagni into custody on Monday alleging the South African fled his home to avoid fraud charges. Spagni, known online as Fluffypony, is facing charges dating back to 2009 that could put him behind bars for up to 20 years. According to Business Insider, Spagni was taken into custody on July 20 en route to New York from Mexico and has remained in the custody of U.S. Marshals since.
Spagni faces charges in his home country for allegedly falsifying invoices to defraud Cape Cookies, his former employer. Court documents show that Fluffypony lifted around $100,000 between October 2009 and June 2011.
Fluffypony gained an online following after he was an important part of developing the Monero cryptocurrency network, geared to privacy and protection. The charges he is facing, however, are separate from his work in cryptocurrency. This case has been ongoing for nearly a decade due to Spagni failing to appear in court after initially pleading not guilty. A warrant for his arrest was finally issued in April.
Response from Fluffypony’s corner
The arrest of Spagni in Tennessee warranted a response from the accused’s consul back in South Africa. In a written statement, Duncan Okes, the attorney of record for Spagni, spoke on his behalf on the charges. The letter states the charges are a product of nothing more than a clerical error and a few misunderstandings over several years. Okes also says that the defendant was under the impression that the matter had been resolved back in 2011 and was unaware he was still facing charges for the incident. “In our view, and contrary to accepted practice and procedure and given the circumstances, the issue of the warrant of arrest was irregular and unwarranted,” Okes states. The letter ends on an accusation by Okes, “What is further clear is that the matter is not ripe for hearing and certainly from the Cape Town’s Court’s point of view, the matter is not ‘trial-ready.’”
In a Twitter post on Monday, the wife of the defendant, Saskia Spagni, released a statement from her husband on his recent arrest. “Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding with regards to the setting of court dates in an old matter, which I have continuously been trying to resolve since 2011, I have been held in contempt of court and currently awaiting extradition. I am hoping to resolve this misunderstanding within a short while. In the meantime, my business affairs will continue under the leadership of my partners.”