On Thursday, a 12-member Manhattan jury convicted FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried on seven criminal charges, including wire fraud, securities fraud, commodities fraud and money laundering.
Starting in early October, Bankman-Fried’s trial featured his associates testifying against him. These include Caroline Ellison, Bankman-Fried’s ex-girlfriend and former Alameda head, and Gary Wang, an FTX co-founder and Bankman-Fried’s childhood friend. They both had pleaded guilty in December to multiple charges and cooperated as prosecution witnesses.
Bankman-Fried had denied all charges related to FTX and Alameda’s collapse. He asserted that he had faced genuine challenges managing a high-risk business. He disavowed direct involvement in code updates that had allowed Alameda to access FTX funds and said he had not been part of trading or inquired about the missing funds.
His sentencing by Judge Lewis Kaplan is set for March 28 next year. He faces a maximum 115-year prison sentence.
In a briefing following the verdicts, Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said that Bankman-Fried had committed one of the largest financial frauds in American history.
“While the cryptocurrency industry might be new and the players like Sam Bankman-Fried might be new, this kind of corruption is as old as time. This case has always been about lying, cheating, and stealing, and we have no patience for it,” said Williams.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement, “Sam Bankman-Fried thought that he was above the law. Today’s verdict proves he was wrong.”
Garland emphasized that the case should be a warning to those who try to hide their crimes behind complicated schemes, as the Justice Department will make sure they face the consequences.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicolas Roos said earlier on Wednesday that there was “no serious dispute” about the disappearance of $10 billion in customer funds from FTX’s crypto exchange. The question, he said, is whether Bankman-Fried was aware that taking the money was unethical.
“The defendant schemed and lied to get money, which he spent,” Roos said.
Bankman-Fried launched FTX in 2019, and its value surged significantly during the post-pandemic crypto boom. Prosecutors alleged the operation had been fraudulent from the beginning. While he had presented the exchange as safe to investors and the public, former colleagues testified that it had manipulated data and given hidden advantages to Alameda, such as a $65 billion credit line and the ability to use FTX customer funds.
The downfall of FTX began when an article published in November 2022 exposed the hidden mixing of funds. Furthermore, Binance CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao announced his withdrawal from the exchange. As a result, Bankman-Fried stepped down, and FTX filed for bankruptcy. Bankman-Fried subsequently faced civil and criminal charges related to fraud and money laundering.
Leading up to his trial, Bankman-Fried created issues with prosecutors and the court. Initially on house arrest, he was incarcerated in August for breaching bail conditions, such as using a VPN to watch a football game.
Many other prominent companies are facing legal issues in the U.S. and elsewhere, with several experiencing abrupt collapses similar to FTX’s.
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