By Andrew Moran
Sam Bankman-Fried, the beleaguered FTX founder and former billionaire, allegedly stole $100 million in client funds for political contributions used to influence cryptocurrency legislation, federal prosecutors wrote in a superseding indictment.
U.S. attorneys accused Mr. Bankman-Fried, in a late Aug. 14 amended indictment, of using stolen funds for various purposes, including “making lavish” federal campaign contributions and lobbying members of Congress and other high-level government officials “to promote cryptocurrency regulation that would favor his business and personal interests.”
Federal prosecutors directed two FTX executives, including Nishad Singh, to conceal the source of the funds and “evade restrictions” on specific kinds of political contributions and “thereby maximize FTX’s political influence.”
“He leveraged this influence, in turn, to lobby Congress and regulatory agencies to support legislation and regulation he believed would make it easier for FTX to continue to accept customer deposits and grow, which would, in turn, allow the misappropriation scheme to continue,” the legal filing stated. “Bankman-Fried also used these connections with politicians and government officials to falsely burnish the public image of FTX as a legitimate exchange.”
Documents highlight that he was a substantial donor to Democrats in the 2021-2022 election cycle, contributing roughly $40 million to various political action committees (PACs) and members of the House and Senate, such as Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rep. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). Mr. Bankman-Fried also donated approximately $5 million to President Joe Biden’s 2020 election campaign.
Overall, he was the second-largest top donor to Democrats, behind billionaire George Soros.
The former crypto king enjoyed multiple visits to the White House in the first half of 2022, holding meetings with White House counselor Steve Ricchetti and Charlotte Butash, a policy adviser to the White House deputy chief of staff.
The U.S. government plans to depend on testimony from several individuals to show jurors “the unlawful conduct directed and undertaken by the defendant.” Witness testimony will feature Caroline Ellison, his former girlfriend and the ex-CEO of Alameda Research; FTX co-founder Gary Wang; and Mr. Singh, the engineering chief at the cryptocurrency exchange.
They have already pleaded guilty to criminal charges in cooperation agreements with federal attorneys that could extend them leniency at sentencing.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bankman-Fried’s attorneys submitted court papers requesting that the trial judge exclude evidence surrounding the FTX bankruptcy, the solvency of FTC and Alameda Research, and the companies’ ability to repay customers. His lawyers also asked that the judge prohibit prosecutors from informing jurors that the former billionaire resigned from FTX.
Other evidence will examine private communications and financial records, as well as Google documents and spreadsheets.
SBF Goes to Jail
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan revoked Mr. Bankman-Fried’s bail and ruled in favor of federal prosecutors, placing him back in custody. Prosecutors claimed that he engaged in witness tampering, such as contacting the general counsel of FTX through encrypted communication and sharing Ms. Ellison’s private diary with The New York Times.
“The record here establishes that the defendant went beyond benignly exercising a constitutional right to speak to the press—he took covert steps intended to improperly discredit a trial witness and taint the jury pool,” prosecutors said. “The Government seeks the only appropriate relief consistent with the defendant’s escalating evasions of his bail conditions: that bail be revoked, and the defendant be detained pending trial.”
But Mr. Bankman-Fried’s representation argued that he should not be imprisoned for attempts to protect his reputation amid growing negative media reporting.
Since his December arrest, he had been primarily confined to his parents’ home in Palo Alto, California, under house arrest on a $250 million bond.
In a letter to Judge Kaplan, his attorneys requested that the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn be ordered to ensure that Mr. Bankman-Fried is given his daily Emsam skin patch for depression and four doses per day of Adderall for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
“For over five years, Mr. Bankman-Fried has been prescribed Emsam 9mg/24 hrs transdermal patch for the treatment of depression. And for the past three years, Mr. Bankman-Fried has been prescribed Adderall 10mg tablets, 3-4x/day for the treatment of ADHD,” they wrote. “Without these medications, Mr. Bankman-Fried will experience a return of his depression and ADHD symptoms, which will severely impact his ability to assist in his own defense.”
The embattled exchange founder has pleaded not guilty to charges that he stole billions of dollars in FTX funds.
Last month, U.S. prosecutors dropped a campaign finance charge against Mr. Bankman-Fried, the second time the federal government trimmed his indictment. If convicted, it would have added five years to his prison term.