Sam Bankman-Fried guilty of defrauding crypto customers out of billions

todayNovember 3, 2023 3

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Sam Bankman-Fried guilty of defrauding crypto customers out of billions

Sam Bankman-Fried has been found guilty of defrauding customers of his cryptocurrency exchange out of billions of dollars.

The 31-year-old could be sentenced to more than 100 years in prison after stealing money from clients of FTX.

A Manhattan jury convicted him on all seven counts after a month-long trial.

FTX collapsed last November, shocking financial markets and wiping out the crypto tycoon’s estimated $26bn (£21bn) fortune.

He was arrested in the Bahamas in December and extradited to the US.

Bankman-Fried – who pleaded not guilty to two counts of fraud and five of conspiracy – clasped his hands together as the verdict was delivered.

He admitted “mistakes” in running FTX when he testified last week, but denied stealing at least $10bn of his customers’ money.

Prosecutors claimed he used the funds for risky bets at his hedge fund Alameda Research – with a huge financial black hole emerging when crypto markets fell sharply.

FTX abruptly halted withdrawals last November and crypto’s second-largest exchange – with more than a million customers – went bankrupt.

FTX logo is seen in this illustration taken March 31, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

FTX allowed people to buy crypto and charged a fee for each transaction

Bankman-Fried’s fall from grace has seen him compared to well-known financial fraudsters Bernie Madoff and ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ Jordan Belfort.

“He didn’t bargain for his three loyal deputies taking that stand and telling you the truth: that he was the one with the plan, the motive and the greed to raid FTX customer deposits – billions and billions of dollars – to give himself money, power, influence,” prosecutor Danielle Sassoon told the jury.

“He thought the rules did not apply to him. He thought that he could get away with it.”

Bankman-Fried built ‘pyramid of deceit’

He was the mop-haired, cargo short-wearing darling of the crypto world.

Sam Bankman-Fried build the FTX cryptocurrency exchange into a business valued at $32bn.

There were flash TV ads featuring basketball icon Steph Curry and actor Larry David. Tennis star Naomi Osaka wore FTX branded gear and the company logo adorned the stadium of the Miami Heat.

FTX was huge and Sam Bankman-Fried rode high on excess.

Home was a $35m property in the Bahamas, a place where he knew the neighbours – FTX spent $300m buying up vacation properties on the island nation for company staff.

But it was success built on fraudulent foundations.

In the words of the prosecution, Bankman-Fried built a “pyramid of deceit” and treated FTX as his own personal piggy bank, defrauding customers out of more than $10bn.

The consequences of his arrest have since reverberated through the crypto world – other firms have collapsed and there has been a tightening in regulation.

Bankman-Fried’s defence lawyers argued that the 31-year-old was simply a “math nerd” who never set out to break the law and was a victim of circumstances beyond his control.

He is the math nerd who can count on a lengthy stay in prison.

Alameda’s former CEO Caroline Ellison and former FTX executives Gary Wang and Nishad Singh pleaded guilty and gave evidence against Bankman-Fried last month.

They said he told them to help Alameda loot funds from FTX and lie to lenders and investors.

The defence claimed the trio had falsely implicated him to get a lighter sentence, but after their testimony Bankman-Fried took the calculated risk to give evidence.

He admitted making a mistake by not having a dedicated risk management team, but claimed he thought Alameda’s borrowing from FTX was allowed.

He told the jury he did not realise how big the debts had become until just before both firms collapsed.

Read more:
Why industry may never recover from spectacular downfall of ‘crypto king’

How FTX founder went from £21bn empire to jail

Former crypto hedge fund Alameda Research CEO Caroline Ellison arrives for the trial of former FTX Chief Executive Sam Bankman-Fried who is facing fraud charges over the collapse of the bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange, at Federal Court in New York City, U.S., October 11, 2023. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Former Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison (centre) gave evidence against him

The son of Stanford law professors, and an MIT graduate himself, Bankman-Fried was known for his distinctive curly hair and casual dress – as well as mixing with celebrities.

His trial even heard that he believed he had a chance of one day becoming US president.

Bankman-Fried had been in custody since August after the judge said he had probably tampered with witnesses and revoked his $250m bail.

He will be sentenced on 28 March 2024.

Written by: Newsroom

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