The South African government says it has charged Riccardo “Fluffypony” Spagni with 378 counts of fraud, forgery, and uttering in a R1.5-million dispute with his former employer.
Spagni served as lead maintainer of the privacy-focussed Monero cryptocurrency for five years. He stepped down in December 2019.
He has waived his right to an extradition hearing in the US and asked the court to expedite his return to South Africa to face the charges.
US law enforcement arrested Spagni in Nashville, Tennessee when the private jet carrying him to a cryptocurrency conference in Los Cabos, Mexico stopped to refuel.
According to court documents, he had recently emigrated from South Africa to the US and had bought property in New York.
The state accused Spagni of defrauding his former employer, Cape Cookies, of R1,453,561.47.
Spagni allegedly intercepted invoices between Cape Cookies and IT supplier Ensync.
He is accused of fabricating invoices from Ensync to Cape Cookies and placing his own company’s bank account details and VAT number on the documents.
The court documents state that Spagni inflated the invoice amounts, and it was found that Ensync’s actual invoices were then paid at a later date.
Spagni also stands accused of generating false invoices for three different fictitious IT suppliers.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Spagni travelled to the US during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and missed his court date, saying he mistakenly believed he did not need to be present.
South African law enforcement issued a warrant for Spagni’s arrest and asked US authorities to detain him for extradition.
He was released from prison in September 2021 after South African authorities failed to file the necessary paperwork for his extradition hearing.
“I am actively working with my attorneys on a way to return to South Africa as soon as possible so I can address this matter and get it behind me once and for all,” Spagni stated.
In court papers filed in May 2022, it was revealed that South Africa had issued a warrant for Spagni’s arrest on 378 separate counts:
- 126 counts of fraud or contraventions of the VAT Act
- 126 counts of forgery
- 126 counts of uttering
Spagani’s legal team moved to strike these papers from the record, arguing that the government’s late filing violates due process protections.
The court denied the motion after Spagni waived his right to an extradition hearing.
On 25 May, Spagni filed an affidavit waiving his right to an extradition hearing and asked the US court to expedite his return to South Africa.
“I hereby waive my rights under the extradition treaty and the applicable sections of Title 18 of the United States Code, and agree to be transported in custody, as soon as possible, to South Africa,” Spagni stated.
The court ordered that Spagni’s bail conditions remain in place until his extradition.
“The United States shall notify Spagni of the date on which duly authorized representatives of the Government of South Africa will depart South Africa to effectuate his arrest,” US magistrate judge Alistair Newbern ordered.
“The transfer of Spagni and any seized evidence shall be at a time and place mutually agreed upon by the United States Marshal and the authorized representatives of the Government of South Africa.”
In a separate order, the judge granted the temporary release of Spagni’s passport so that he may apply for a Social Security Number, suggesting he intends to return to the US full-time.
“Counsel shall maintain possession of the passport and shall accompany Spagni to complete the necessary documentation to obtain a Social Security Number,” Newbern ordered.
“Counsel shall not transfer possession of the passport to Spagni at any time.”
MyBroadband contacted Spagni regarding his extradition from the United States.
“[I have] no comment at this time,” he said.