Opening arguments start Wednesday as Sam Bankman-Fried stands trial accused of orchestrating one of the biggest financial frauds in American history. At his peak, was the crypto industry’s golden boy. He had $16 billion and a digital assets empire.Prosecutors will tell the court how Bankman-Fried directed the use of customer funds for trading at sister hedge fund Alameda Research, lavish property purchases in The Bahamas, executive loans and political donations at a time when Congress was grappl
(Bloomberg) — Opening arguments start Wednesday as Sam Bankman-Fried stands trial accused of orchestrating one of the biggest financial frauds in American history. At his peak, was the crypto industry’s golden boy. He had $16 billion and a digital assets empire.Prosecutors will tell the court how Bankman-Fried directed the use of customer funds for trading at sister hedge fund Alameda Research, lavish property purchases in The Bahamas, executive loans and political donations at a time when Congress was grappling with how to best regulate the crypto industry.
Here is who you can expect to hear from:
Plea: Not GuiltyStatus: In CustodyAge: 31
Charges : Wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, securities fraud and commodities fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Allegations: Bankman-Fried is accused of orchestrating a years-long fraud at FTX, siphoning billions of dollars of customer funds from the exchange. He is accused of secretly giving Alameda Research a backdoor to funds on the FTX platform and lying to investors about the financial health of his companies. Bankman-Fried previously denied committing fraud and put the 2022 collapse of FTX down to poor internal controls and market upheaval.
The Guilty Pleas
CEO Alameda Research
Plea: GuiltyStatus: Cooperating WitnessAge: 28SBF Ties: Former Bankman-Fried girlfriend; former trader at firm Jane Street with Bankman-Fried
Charges : Wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire, commodities and securities fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering
Allegations: Ellison joined Alameda Research as a trader in 2018 and climbed the ranks to become CEO. Overseeing the hedge fund, she knew Alameda had access to an unlimited line of credit at FTX that allowed the exchange to borrow customer funds without having to post collateral, she testified at a plea hearing in December, 2022. When the crypto market began to slide in summer 2022, she and others agreed to borrow several billion dollars in customer funds from FTX to repay Alameda’s loans to lenders. Ellison also testified that she and Bankman-Fried agreed to craft misleading financial statements that concealed the borrowing relationship.
Former FTX CTO/Co-Founder
Plea: GuiltyStatus: Cooperating WitnessAge: 31SBF Ties: Attended math camp in high school, college roommates, founded FTX with Bankman-Fried
Charges : Wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit commodities fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud
Allegations: Wang and Bankman-Fried met at math camp in high school, joining forces years later to co-found FTX. At a plea hearing in December, 2022, Wang, the exchange’s chief coder, said he was directed to change the platform’s code to give Alameda Research special privileges on FTX. He did so knowing investors and customers were told Alameda had no such access, he said.
FTX Director of Engineering
Plea: GuiltyStatus: Cooperating WitnessAge: 27SBF Ties: Singh was a childhood friend of Bankman-Fried’s younger brother and lived with Bankman-Fried in The Bahamas
Charges : Wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit commodities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and campaign finance violations.
Allegations: Singh led a team of engineers at FTX and was responsible for the platform’s coding. In mid-2022, he learned Alameda Research had borrowed seven billion dollars worth of customer funds from FTX and couldn’t repay what it owed. Despite this, Singh said he agreed to use Alameda funds, effectively customer deposits, to cover company expenditures. He said during a plea hearing in early 2023 that he also gave auditors misleading information that Bankman-Fried could then use in fundraising efforts.
Co-CEO of FTX’s Bahamian subsidary
Plea: GuiltyStatus: Not cooperatingAge: 30SBF Ties: Salame joined Alameda in 2019, was a member of Bankman-Fried’s inner-circle
Charges: Conspiracy to make unlawful political contributions and operate an unregistered money-transmitting business.
Allegations: Unlike his colleagues, Salame pleaded guilty but did not agree to testify against Bankman-Fried at trial. Prosecutors allege Bankman-Fried used Salame and other executives as straw donors, making millions in political donations leading up to the 2022 election. Salame, who was a prolific Republican donor, agreed to a $1.55 billion forfeiture order as part of his plea deal in September, 2023. Though the government will only pursue that amount if Salame fails to hand over a much smaller asset pool – including $6 million in cash, two properties and a Porsche 911 Turbo.
Other potential witnesses could come from Bankman-Fried’s inner-circle of family and executives at FTX. They haven’t been charged in the case.
Barbara Fried and Joe Bankman
Sam Bankman-Fried’s parents have been under scrutiny over their roles advising FTX in the lead up to its collapse. FTX’s new management sued the Stanford law professors in September to recover “millions of dollars in fraudulently transferred and misappropriated funds”, including a $10 million gift from their son. The couple were included on a list of potential witnesses who may feature in their son’s trial.
Co-CEO Alameda Research
Trabucco abruptly stepped down in August 2022, stating in a tweet that he had chosen “to prioritize other things” and would instead become an adviser at the firm. Trabucco has posted on social media about his love of gambling and how his poker strategy helped inform Alameda’s trades.
FTX Head of Product
Arora led efforts to lure more customers to the crypto exchange and brokered deals with retail-focused startups. He helped put together some of Bankman-Fried’s bailout deals, including the ill-fated agreement to prop up BlockFi Inc. with a $400 million revolving credit facility with an eye towards FTX possibly acquiring the crypto lender — BlockFi filed for bankruptcy shortly after FTX did.
FTX’s Chief Operating Officer/Co-CEO of FTX Digital Markets
One of Bankman-Fried’s top lieutenants, Wang served as FTX’s chief operating officer until November and was also the co-CEO of FTX Digital Markets. She managed global user growth, partnerships and public relations, and also represented the company publicly with appearances at conferences.
FTX Chief Regulatory Officer
In a lawsuit filed in June, the new management of FTX accused Friedberg of enabling Bankman-Fried’s alleged crimes, and helping to orchestrate a “wide-ranging con game” to raid billions of customer dollars. He has not been accused of wrongdoing by prosecutors or regulators.
FTX US General Counsel
Miller was central to efforts to push Bankman-Fried to file for bankruptcy at FTX and step down as chief executive officer. He was seen as an adult in the room who was working to preserve “whatever is preservable” of the crypto exchange.
FTX General Counsel
Like Friedberg, Sun had previously worked at Silicon Valley law firm Fenwick & West.
In the Courtroom
US District Judge Lewis Kaplan
Background: Kaplan was a partner at Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison before he was appointed to the federal bench in 1994 by President Bill Clinton.
Previous Cases: Kaplan is currently overseeing author E. Jean Carroll’s battery and defamation suits against former President Donald Trump. He also presided over a lawsuit by a woman who alleged she was loaned out to Prince Andrew by Jeffrey Epstein for sex. Andrew settled the case in February, roughly a month after Kaplan denied his motion to dismiss the suit. In 2014, he famously refused to enforce a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron for polluting the Ecuadorian rainforest, instead charging the plaintiff’s lawyer with contempt.
Background: A well-known trial attorney in New York, Cohen was previously a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn. He co-founded his boutique law firm Cohen and Gresser in 2002. Cohen took Bankman-Fried on as a client after the latter cut ties with lawyers at the firm Paul Weiss over a conflict of interest.Previous Cases: Cohen represented Ghislaine Maxwell, a close associate of Jeffrey Epstein, during her trial for sex trafficking in 2021. Maxwell was found guilty and is serving a 20 year jail term. Cohen also represented the founders of an African health care company, which was awarded $39 million, including interest, in restitution from Glencore in 2023 as part of a sprawling bribery case.
Background: A partner at Cohen and Gresser, Everdell started his career as a clerk for a Judge Raymond Dearie before getting his start in private practice as an associate at Debevoise and Plimpton. He was a prosecutor for almost a decade at the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York before joining Cohen’s firm in 2017.
Previous Cases: Alongside Cohen, Everdell represented Ghislaine Maxwell during her high-profile trial for luring underage girls for Epstein. As a federal prosecutor, he worked on terrorism, fraud and organized crime cases. Most notably, he helped investigate Mexican drug cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who was sentenced to life in prison in 2019.
Background: A Stanford Law graduate, Roos joined the Southern District of New York US Attorney’s Office in 2016. He worked in the public corruption unit before joining the securities and commodities fraud task force.
Previous Cases: Roos has been involved in some of the most high-profile white collar cases to come out of SDNY in recent years. He worked on the prosecutions of Nikola founder Trevor Milton, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen and British billionaire Joe Lewis.
Background: After Sassoon joined the Southern District of New York US Attorney’s Office, she had a stint in the violent crimes unit before joining the securities and commodities fraud task force. The Yale Law School graduate previously clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and was a litigation associate at the firm Kirkland and Ellis.
Previous Cases: Before co-leading the FTX investigation, Sassoon investigated organized crime, sex crimes and union corruption at the office’s violent crimes unit. She prosecuted cult leader Lawrence Ray for the torture and abuse of Sarah Lawrence College students, culminating this year in a 60 year prison sentence. Roos and Sassoon first worked together several years ago on a fraud case against Brooklyn habitual scammer Vitaly Broker over an online glasses scheme.
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