Sam Bankman-Fried pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to criminal charges that he defrauded investors in his now-defunct FTX cryptocurrency exchange and caused billions of dollars in losses in a “epic” fraud, according to prosecutors.
He entered his plea in federal court in Manhattan, where he faces eight criminal charges, including wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy. The 30-year-old ex-mogul is accused of stealing FTX customers’ deposits and using them to fund his Alameda Research hedge fund, purchase real estate, and donate millions of dollars to political causes.
“Customer funds were also used and laundered through political donations, charitable donations and a variety of venture investments,” Danielle Sassoon, a federal prosecutor, said at the hearing.
Sassoon suggested that the government has a wealth of evidence against Bankman-Fried, claiming that prosecutors will turn over hundreds of thousands of documents to the defense in the coming weeks.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan set an Oct. 2 trial date, which Sassoon said could last four weeks.
The government has already obtained guilty pleas from two of Bankman-former Fried’s top associates, former Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison and former FTX Chief Technology Officer Gary Wang, who are cooperating with prosecutors and may testify at trial.
A shaved man Bankman-Fried entered the courtroom wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and dotted blue tie while carrying a backpack, a far cry from the shorts and t-shirts he wore when he ran FTX from the Bahamas.
During the hearing, Bankman-Fried did not speak to the judge but instead conferred privately with his lawyers. Before the arraignment, he shook hands with one of the prosecutors. When it was over, he approached the courtroom sketch artists and complimented their work.
If convicted, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate could face up to 115 years in prison. He has previously admitted to making mistakes at FTX but has stated that he does not believe he is criminally liable.
Bankman-Fried rode the rise in the value of bitcoin and other digital assets to amass an estimated $26 billion net worth and become a powerful political donor in the United States.
After a wave of withdrawals, FTX imploded in early November and declared bankruptcy on November 11, wiping out Bankman-fortune. Fried’s Later, he claimed to have $100,000 in his bank account.
He was extradited from the Bahamas, where he lived and where the exchange took place, last month.
Bankman-Fried has been subject to electronic monitoring and required to live with his parents, Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried, both professors at Stanford Law School in California, since his release on a $250 million bond on December 22. Fried was present at her son’s hearing on Tuesday.
Kaplan imposed a new bail condition on Tuesday, stating that Bankman-Fried cannot access FTX or Alameda assets.
Sassoon had accused Bankman-Fried of attempting to transfer assets to an unnamed foreign country that he believed would be “more lenient.” Prosecutors were also looking into reports late last month that funds were transferred out of Alameda cryptocurrency wallets, she said, adding that there was no evidence Bankman-Fried carried out those transactions.
Bankman-attorney, Fried’s Mark Cohen, stated that his client “did not make” the Alameda transfers. In response to the accusation that Bankman-Fried attempted to transfer money overseas, he stated that his client was attempting to comply with a court order issued in the Bahamas last month, which temporarily seized some FTX assets.
The Bahamas’ financial regulator, the Securities Commission of the Bahamas (SCB), did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
The SCB directed Bankman-Fried and Wang to transfer assets under their control in November, according to Christina Rolle, the commission’s executive director, in a Dec. 29 affidavit filed in the Bahamas Supreme Court. The government of the Bahamas has appointed liquidators to wind down FTX’s international trading operations.
On Tuesday, Kaplan granted Bankman-request Fried’s that the names of two additional co-signers for the bond not be made public.
Bankman-lawyers Fried’s claim that his parents, who co-signed the bond, have received physical threats since FTX’s demise, and that other co-signers may face similar harassment.
(Adapted from MoneyControl.com)