By Kathryn Wheeler
When cryptocurrency giant, FTX, collapsed this past December, the spotlight fell to leader Sam Bankman-Fried, the moppy-haired 30-year-old who was charged on multiple accounts of fraud. But as the extent of fraud committed by the company has swiftly been unearthed, an increasing number of Bankman-Fried’s employees have also been charged with crimes. This includes Nishad Singh, a 27-year old member of FTX founders and director of engineering. Singh bought a 10-acre, $3.7 million home on Orcas Island in October. Singh purchased the property through FTX funds, $6 million of which he took for personal use to buy the property and make charitable donations in the fall.
The property, valued for its seclusion atop a ridge surrounded by mountain and ocean views, was taken into government hands this past March. Singh, who pleaded guilty to six criminal charges of fraud in February, agreed to forfeit the property. The home was allegedly purchased through misappropriated customer funds at FTX, according to a March Seattle Times article. The 1.2 million customers of the bankrupt company have lost an estimated $8 billion dollars, much of which still hasn’t been recovered.
The four-bedroom property, with a guesthouse, gardens, forests, ponds and a 70-foot lap pool, now sits in waiting. It is unclear whether Singh, who was currently residing with Bankman-Fried at his company’s Bahamas estate, ever even stayed at the property in his short ownership.
Singh, a high school friend of Bankman-Fried’s brother, Gabe, was recruited by FTX in 2019, rising to billionaire status in just a matter of years. A University of California Berkeley honors student and graduate, Singh spent time as an engineer at Facebook before he transitioned to FTX. Now, Singh faces a maximum prison term of 75 years, although plea deals may mean a reduced sentence, according to a New York Times article.
The purchase of the Orcas property came as Island property values have been steadily increasing. An influx of new residents and increased popularity of the islands among those with wealth has been trending up. The county’s median single-family home price was $960,000 in 2022, now higher than King County’s median of $900,000. The addition of those in the 1% income bracket, like Singh, has also driven up the county’s income inequality rate, now the highest in the state. All of this has caused an affordable housing crisis that continues to bloom as low-wage island workers face dramatically steeper rent each year.
Ex-resident Singh has expressed remorse for his actions. According to the New York Times, Singh’s lawyers stated,“Nishad is deeply sorry for his role in this and has accepted responsibility for his actions.” They added that Singh seeks to assist the government and “make things right for victims,” according to the statement. He will continue to work with authorities as part of his plea deal. For now, the estate will sit vacant, only gaining value as housing prices continue to increase.