Breaking Down the Trial of Sam Bankman-Fried

11.08.2023
By: Jean Natalina

Last week, disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried was found guilty on all seven counts of fraud and conspiracy. The former crypto executive, who was touted as “crypto’s golden boy” and “the next Warren Buffet,” was accused of mismanaging customer funds stored on his crypto exchange, FTX. This was done to cover losses from his other company, Alameda Research, and fund his lavish lifestyle. This accounted for over $10 billion dollars of customer losses, making it one of the largest financial fraud cases in U.S. history. 

The sentencing comes after the collapse of the FTX empire, once the largest crypto exchange in the U.S. – it had previously included partnerships with top celebrities like former NFL quarterback Tom Brady, supermodel Gisele Bündchen, and NFL athlete Steph Curry. A Miami stadium was also named after the company. 

 What brought Bankman-Fried down? 

The prosecution had an ironclad case against Bankman-Fried. They called the star eyewitness, Caroline Ellison, to the stand. Caroline was Bankman-Fried’s ex-girlfriend and the former CEO of Alameda Research. Other key witnesses included Gary Wang, FTX co-founder, and Nishad Singh, FTX’s director of engineering. All three pleaded guilty to the charges against them, pointing the finger at Bankman-Fried when asked who instructed them to commit their crimes. 

Bankman-Fried also took the stand in defense of himself, something most lawyers typically advise against. In this case, his testimony appeared to do more damage than good, as the former crypto tycoon repeatedly said he couldn’t remember key details regarding the case. He maintained that he didn’t commit fraud but did acknowledge he made some missteps with the company. This apparently was not convincing enough, as it took the jury under four hours to convict the 31-year-old to a lifetime prison sentence of 110 years. 

 How does this impact the crypto industry? 

Bankman-Fried’s sentencing is in a way cathartic for the crypto industry, which has had a dark cloud looming over it. The verdict might be an impetus for further crypto regulation from the U.S. government. Since the collapse of FTX almost eleven months ago, the SEC has been keeping a close eye on the crypto industry; there is a belief among many that further regulation and guidance will help move the industry along. 

Sam will remain in prison until he attends another trial on March 4, 2024. So, we’ll continue to keep following this story as it develops. And in the words of U.S. Attorney Damian Williams: 

“This case is also a warning to every fraudster who thinks they’re untouchable, that their crimes are too complex for us to catch, that they are too powerful to prosecute, or that they are clever enough to talk their way out of it if caught.  Those folks should think again and cut it out.  And if they don’t, I promise we’ll have enough handcuffs for all of them.” 

 

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