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Dethroned crypto king Sam Bankman-Fried to be sentenced for defrauding FTX investors

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LA Post: Dethroned crypto king Sam Bankman-Fried to be sentenced for defrauding FTX investors
AP
KEN SWEET and LARRY NEUMEISTER
March 27, 2024

NEW YORK (AP) — Former crypto mogul Sam Bankman-Fried faces the potential of decades in prison when he is sentenced Thursday for his role in the 2022 collapse of FTX, once one of the world's most popular platforms for trading digital currency.

Bankman-Fried, 32, was convicted in November of fraud and conspiracy — a dramatic fall from a year earlier when he and his companies seemed to be riding a crest of success that resulted in a Super Bowl advertisement and celebrity endorsements from stars like quarterback Tom Brady and comedian Larry David.

A jury found that Bankman-Fried illegally used money from FTX depositors to cover his expenses, which included purchasing luxury properties in the Caribbean, alleged bribes to Chinese officials and private planes.

Prosecutors recommended a prison sentence of 40 to 50 years.

“The defendant victimized tens of thousands of people and companies, across several continents, over a period of multiple years. He stole money from customers who entrusted it to him; he lied to investors; he sent fabricated documents to lenders; he pumped millions of dollars in illegal donations into our political system; and he bribed foreign officials. Each of these crimes is worthy of a lengthy sentence,” prosecutors told Judge Lewis A. Kaplan in a court filing.

Bankman-Fried’s attorneys, friends and family have urged leniency, saying he is unlikely to reoffend again. They also say FTX's investors have largely recovered their funds — a claim disputed by bankruptcy lawyers, FTX and its creditors.

“Mr. Bankman-Fried continues to live a life of delusion,” wrote John Ray, the CEO of FTX who has been cleaning up the bankrupt company. “The ‘business’ he left on November 11, 2022 was neither solvent nor safe.”

Two weeks ago, Bankman-Fried attorney Marc Mukasey attacked a probation office recommendation of 100 years in prison, saying a sentence of that length would be “grotesque” and “barbaric.”

He urged the judge to sentence Bankman-Fried to a term of five to 6 1/2 years in prison.

"Sam is not the ‘evil genius’ depicted in the media or the greedy villain described at trial,” Mukasey said, calling his client a “first-time, non-violent offender."

Bankman-Fried was worth billions of dollars on paper as the co-founder and CEO of FTX, which was the second-largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world at one time.

FTX allowed investors to buy dozens of virtual currencies, from Bitcoin to more obscure ones like Shiba Inu Coin. Flush with billions of dollars of investors’ cash, Bankman-Fried took out a Super Bowl advertisement to promote his business and bought the naming rights to an arena in Miami.

But the collapse of cryptocurrency prices in 2022 took its toll on FTX, and ultimately led to its downfall. FTX’s hedge fund affiliate, known as Alameda Research, had bought billions of dollars of various crypto investments that lost considerable amounts of value in 2022. Bankman-Fried tried to plug the holes in Alameda’s balance sheet with FTX customer funds.

Three other people from Bankman-Fried’s inner circle pleaded guilty to related crimes and testified at his trial.

The biggest name among the three was Caroline Ellison, once the girlfriend of Bankman-Fried. Ellison described Bankman-Fried as a calculating individual who knew that he was likely committing crimes when he directed the use of customer funds. Two other onetime friends of Bankman-Fried, Gary Wang and Nishad Singh, also testified they felt they were directed by Bankman-Fried to commit fraud.

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