Reginald Fowler is willing to plead guilty, but not for $371 million

A former NFL team owner has been asked to pay US$371 million as part of a legal settlement for bank fraud, illegal money transfers and wire fraud, but he is not interested in paying that amount.

Reginald Fowler’s legal team said the former minority owner of the Minnesota Vikings is willing to plead guilty to his involvement in Crypto Capital’s alleged shadow banking practices, provided the seizure 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 USD 850 million in customer funds. The exchange says the funds were deposited with Crypto Capital before being confiscated by government authorities in several countries.

According to Law360, Fowler’s lawyers said that an agreement with the US government to plead guilty in January „exploded“ because it left the former owner of the NFL team in detention unless he paid USD 371 million. The legal team made the comments during a telephone conference held on October 15 in the Southern District of New York.

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

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

The federal judge overseeing the case, Andrew L. Carter Jr., ruled that Fowler could still agree to plead guilty and subsequently contest the forfeiture of his assets:

„Even if the government does not extend an offer, Mr. Fowler could appeal the charge, without admitting the forfeiture claim, and there could be a separate proceeding.“

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

Fowler pleaded not guilty to all charges. Others related to the case include the president of Crypto Capital, Ivan Manuel Molina Lee, who was arrested by Polish authorities in 2019 on suspicion of money laundering and for having links with an international drug cartel. The same year, in the United States, authorities charged Oz Yosef, also a former executive of Crypto Capital, with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transfer service.

Fowler is free on US$5 million bail, which appears to be the current rate for suspected crypto criminals. Unless he agrees to plead guilty, his trial is scheduled to begin in January 2021.