Ex-Monero developer Riccardo Spagni, aka “Fluffypony”, has been arrested in the US on non-crypto-related fraud charges, according to documents filed with a Tennessee district court.
The court documents show that the former “maintainer” of Monero, one of crypto’s most high-profile privacy projects, was nabbed by authorities nearly two weeks ago in Nashville.
Spagni, who goes by the Twitter handle “Fluffypony”, is well known within the Monero and wider crypto community, having spent five years helping develop the project, appearing on various influencers’ YouTube channels and being a member of the “Magical Crypto Friends” crypto influencer group, which also includes Litecoin founder Charlie Lee.
He officially stepped down from his Monero role in 2019, although he has apparently still been loosely involved as a public representative for the project since that time.
The South African national was reportedly arrested in Nashville when a private charter jet he was on from New York to Mexico stopped to refuel.
According to his arrest warrant, Spagni has been in federal custody since July 20 and will be held without bail until being extradited back to South Africa and passed to authorities there.
As reported in a Coindesk article today, the charges laid against Spagni involve an old fraud case – the details of which date back a decade ago when he was an employee of a South African business called Cape Cookies. It’s alleged he created invoices from fake companies, put them through Cape Cookies’ accounts system and embezzeled roughly US$100,000.
Spagni had been due to appear in court in South Africa but, when he failed to show, authorities discovered he’d left the country. South African police have been on the hunt for him since April.
According to his arrest warrant, Spagni is believed to be holding “significant cryptocurrency assets that would enable him to flee”, as well as “a watch valued at US$800,000”.
Monero price relatively unaffected
Monero (XMR), which is ranked 31 on CoinGecko with a market cap in excess of US$4.2 billion, hasn’t been dramatically affected by this news at the time of writing. That said, it did take a slight dip a short time ago, and is presently down 1.9% in the past 24 hours.
As Spagni hasn’t been officially connected to the project for some time, there shouldn’t necessarily be any link, in theory, between his arrest and the token’s price action.
The crypto is regarded by many in the industry as an important part of the blockchain ecosystem. It’s loved by privacy purists as it’s designed to provide secure and anonymous transactions. It’s also criticised by some, however, for being the crypto of choice for cybercriminals – probably the “shadowy super coders” US Senator Elizabeth Warren likes to refer to.
Spagni is currently receiving pockets of support on Crypto Twitter. His wife, Saskia, posted a message from the man himself a short time ago.
2/2 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.
— Saskia Spagni (@Spatzipantz) August 2, 2021