Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried sentenced to 25 years in landmark fraud case

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Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried sentenced to 25 years in landmark fraud case Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried sentenced to 25 years in landmark fraud case Liam ‘Akiba’ Wright · 1 hour ago · 4 min read

SBF had requested leniency of around 5 years jail time, while the prosection requested 10 times that.

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Updated: Mar. 28, 2024 at 4:00 pm UTC

Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried sentenced to 25 years in landmark fraud case

Cover art/illustration via CryptoSlate. Image includes combined content which may include AI-generated content.

Sam Bankman-Fried, the former CEO of FTX, was sentenced to 25 years in jail today in a packed courtroom, marking a significant moment in the legal scrutiny of the crypto industry. He will be 57 years old when he is released. The sentencing, as detailed by Inner City Press, comes after a series of legal proceedings that shed light on the complexities and potential vulnerabilities within the digital asset space.

Bankman-Fried, dressed in a light brown jail uniform from MDC-Brooklyn, faced the judgment of Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who, after considering the pre-sentence report and the guidelines disputes, delivered a sentence that reflects the gravity of the crimes committed. The courtroom, filled with prosecutors, defense lawyers, and an FBI agent, bore witness to the culmination of a case that has been closely followed by both the crypto community and the general public.

The legal proceedings highlighted the extensive financial losses incurred by investors, lenders, and customers, with Judge Kaplan rejecting the defense’s argument about the loss amount. The court found that investors lost $1.7 billion, lenders lost $1.3 billion, and customers faced an $8 billion shortfall. These figures underscore the scale of the fraud and the impact on the victims involved.

The defense had previously sought leniency, citing Bankman-Fried’s autism diagnosis and arguing for a reduced sentence of 63 to 78 months. However, the prosecution argued for a substantial prison term of 50 years.

Judge Kaplan’s decision to vary downward from the Guidelines range while still acknowledging the significant number of victims and the use of sophisticated means emphasizes the complexity of sentencing in cases involving emerging technologies and financial structures. The finding of obstruction of justice, including attempted witness tampering and perjury, further emphasized the deliberate actions taken by Bankman-Fried to mislead and defraud.

Human cost of FTX collapse

During the sentencing hearing, a poignant moment unfolded as victims were given the opportunity to address the court. One such victim, Sunil Kavuri, who traveled from London specifically for this purpose, shared his experiences and the impact of the FTX collapse on him and others. Kavuri highlighted the ongoing struggles faced by victims, challenging the narrative that the loss was zero and criticizing the handling of the bankruptcy estate. He pointed out the significant discrepancies in the valuation and sale of assets, including a token that significantly appreciated in value after being sold at a discount and the sale of Solana tokens at a 70% discount.

Kavuri’s testimony underscored the real and continuing harm suffered by those affected, including the tragic note that at least three individuals had committed suicide as a result of the fraud. Judge Kaplan acknowledged Kavuri’s points, reinforcing the gravity of the situation and the inaccuracies in claims that customers would be made whole. This victim’s statement added a deeply personal dimension to the proceedings, emphasizing the human cost of financial crimes and the need for accountability beyond the sentencing of Bankman-Fried.

SBF lawyer describes him as ‘misunderstood’

In a heartfelt defense of his client, Sam Bankman-Fried’s attorney, Mark Mukasey, presented a contrasting image of the former FTX CEO to the court. Mukasey argued that Bankman-Fried’s actions, while resulting in significant financial fallout, were not driven by the same malice or predatory intent that characterized other high-profile financial criminals, such as those who stole from Holocaust survivors. He emphasized that Bankman-Fried was not a “ruthless financial serial killer” but rather someone who made decisions based on mathematical calculations, not with the intention to cause personal pain.

Mukasey also relayed personal insights from Bankman-Fried’s mother, who described her son as misunderstood and not fitting the mold of a “greedy swindler.” According to Mukasey, Bankman-Fried did not abscond with funds but remained engaged until the end, with a genuine desire to see people repaid. This narrative was allowed to be presented in court partly due to Judge Kaplan’s decision to depart from the usual practice of enumerating the papers considered for sentencing, acknowledging the overwhelming volume of last-minute submissions from both the defense and the prosecution.

The defense’s portrayal of Bankman-Fried aimed to humanize him and differentiate his case from other financial frauds, suggesting that while the consequences of his actions were severe, his motivations were not inherently malicious. Mukasey’s statement also served as an acknowledgment of the victims’ suffering, expressing an understanding of their pain and a commitment to appeal, while maintaining respect for the jury’s verdict.

In a plea to the court, speaking directly Bankman-Fried admitted,

“I made a lot of mistakes. But that’s not how the story ended. Customers weren’t paid back. FTX didn’t survive that. Yeah, customers have been given conflicting claims. That’s caused a lot of damage. They could have been paid back.”

In a moment of candor, Sam Bankman-Fried expressed a somber reflection on his future, acknowledging the likelihood that his ability to contribute meaningfully to society may be irreparably diminished. He admitted to the court that his capacity to make an impact is severely limited by incarceration and that the length of his sentence, whether it be 5 or 40 years, is beyond his control. He stated,

“My useful life is probably over. I’ve long since given what I had to give. I can’t do it from prison.”

Bankman-Fried also addressed the perception of his actions, recognizing the stark contrast between his alleged intentions and how prosecutors, the court, and the media interpreted them. He also said he now expects customers to be repaid. He commented, “I think I failed at that. I’m not sure why, but I do think I did.” He also referred to a specific instance involving a text to the general counsel, which he claimed was an attempt to assist, though it was not viewed as such by others. Even on the day of his sentencing, Bankman-Fried continues to assert that he did not steal user funds maliciously.

However, in his judgment, Judge Kaplan asserted that he believed much of Bankman-Fried’s public rhetoric “was an act” designed to obtain power and influence.

According to Inner City Press, before the sentence was issued, the government argued,

“The defendant is not a monster but he committed gravely serious crimes that harmed many people – and he would consider doing it again. So, 40 to 50 years.”

In announcing the sentence, Judge Kaplan proclaimed that Bankman-Fried was nothing short of a “performer.”

“When not lying, he was evasive, hair splitting, trying to get the prosecutors to rephrase questions for him. I’ve been doing this job for close for 30 years. I’ve never seen a performance like that.”

His sentencing was reported by Inner City Press as follows,

“It is the judgment of the court that you are sentenced to 240 months then consecutive 60 [etc] for a total of 300 months [25 years].”

The implications of today’s sentencing extend beyond the immediate legal consequences for Bankman-Fried. They touch on broader questions about the regulation of digital assets, the protection of investors, and the future of digital asset markets. As the industry grapples with these challenges, the outcome of this case will likely influence discussions and decisions on how best to navigate the complex intersection of technology, finance, and law.

This article will be updated with additional details as they become available.

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