New York, NY – Sam Bankman-Fried, the erstwhile crypto wunderkind and founder of the now-defunct FTX exchange, has been convicted on all counts of fraud and conspiracy, a jury in Manhattan federal court ruled after less than five hours of deliberation. The rapid verdict came as a sharp conclusion to a trial that has captivated the financial world and shone a harsh light on the volatile nature of the cryptocurrency industry.
The charges against Bankman-Fried, often abbreviated as SBF, include wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, securities fraud, commodities fraud, and money laundering. These allegations stem from a complex web of financial malfeasance tied to his cryptocurrency exchange and hedge fund, Alameda Research. SBF now faces up to 110 years in prison, with his sentencing slated for March 28, 2024, presided over by Judge Lewis Kaplan of the New York District.
The courtroom atmosphere was palpable as the verdict was read. SBF’s mother, Barbara Fried, and father, Joe Bankman, presented a stark contrast in reactions; while Fried held a composed stature, Bankman’s posture conveyed a clear sense of defeat. The family’s unity was evident as they embraced amid the courtroom’s solemn silence following the verdict.
Bankman-Fried’s defense team, led by attorney Mark S. Cohen, indicated plans to appeal the verdict. Cohen expressed respect for the jury’s decision but highlighted their disappointment, reaffirming SBF’s stance of innocence and his intention to fight the charges vigorously. In contrast, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams described the case as one of the most significant financial frauds in American history, emphasizing that the core of the case revolved around fundamental acts of lying, cheating, and stealing.
Central to the trial’s outcome were the testimonies of Gary Wang and Nishad Singh, two former associates of SBF at FTX and Alameda Research. In a turn of events, their witness stand testimonies displayed slight variances from the accounts they had previously provided to the FBI in 2022. This discrepancy was pivotal in the dismissal of SBF’s defense motion by Judge Lewis Kaplan, who reasoned that the variations in their statements necessitated further examination and the eventual summoning of FBI officials to testify.
Prosecutors painted a picture of SBF and his executive team using Alameda Research as a conduit for misappropriating funds from FTX customers to personal ends. The lavish lifestyles in the Bahamas, coupled with strategic political donations aimed at gaining leverage in Washington, D.C., were highlighted as the spoils of their alleged fraudulent activities.
The defense, however, portrayed SBF as a visionary caught unawares by the intricacies of his own organizations’ financial entanglements. They pointed fingers at Caroline Ellison, former co-CEO of Alameda and occasionally SBF’s girlfriend, for the poor decision-making that led to the companies’ downfall. Ellison, along with Wang and Singh, had already pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and conspiracy and cooperated with the prosecution in testifying against Bankman-Fried.