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    Tuesday, March 05, 2024

    Jury finds Bankman-Fried guilty on all charges in cryptocurrency fraud trial

    In this courtroom sketch, Sam Bankman-Fried, far left, stands as the jury foreperson, standing far right, reads the verdict with Judge Lewis Kaplan presiding on the bench in Manhattan federal court, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, in New York. A New York jury has convicted FTX founder Bankman-Fried of fraud charges. The 31-year-old California man was convicted Thursday in Manhattan federal court by jurors who rejected his testimony that he didn't defraud customers.(Elizabeth Williams via AP)
    In this courtroom sketch, Sam Bankman Fried's parents Barbara Fried, left, and Joseph Bankman react to the jury verdict in Manhattan federal court, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, in New York. A New York jury has convicted FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried of fraud charges. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)

    NEW YORK — A jury unanimously found the former golden boy of cryptocurrency, Sam Bankman-Fried, guilty on all counts on Thursday.

    Culminating his stunning fall from grace, he was convicted of wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering targeting the customers, investors and lenders of Bankman-Fried’s companies, FTX and Alameda Research.

    He faces more than a century in prison after pleading not guilty to all seven charges earlier this year.

    The verdict, delivered by a jury of three men and nine women, marks the end of a monthlong trial during which prosecutors presented a mountain of evidence that included detailed spreadsheets, pictures of Bankman-Fried with celebrities and ex-presidents, diary entries and screenshots of Signal group chats.

    As the judge read the verdict, Bankman-Fried appeared emotional, standing still with his hands clasped his hands in front of him.

    Exiting the courtroom and walking back into the bowels of the courthouse to be escorted to jail, he turned and locked eyes with his tearful parents. His mother put her hand on her heart as his father sniffled.

    “We respect the jury’s decision,” Bankman-Fried’s attorney Mark Cohen said in a statement. “But we are very disappointed with the result. Mr. Bankman-Fried maintains his innocence and will continue to vigorously fight the charges against him.”

    Bankman-Fried’s sentencing is scheduled for March 28.

    The 31-year-old former billionaire was accused of stealing billions of dollars from customers of his cryptocurrency trading platform, FTX, and defrauding customers and investors. Federal prosecutors alleged he siphoned money from FTX to his crypto hedge fund Alameda Research to fund risky business investments, political donations and a luxury Caribbean penthouse. This setup was helped along by a $65 billion line of credit that effectively gave the company unlimited money from FTX.

    Bankman-Fried’s lawyers have argued he was only acting in “good faith” and that his moves were reasonable business decisions — emphasizing that federal prosecutors have portrayed the “math nerd” as a “movie villain.”

    The prosecution described the ex-crypto king as a power-hungry wannabe future president who “thought the rules didn’t apply to him.”

    Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Danielle Sassoon presented the prosecution’s rebuttal of the defense’s closing statement on Thursday morning, taking apart arguments Bankman-Fried’s lawyers made Wednesday in their closing statements.

    “That is not a regular business decision,” Sassoon said in court Thursday of Bankman-Fried’s actions in 2022. “That is fraud.”

    Judge Lewis Kaplan spent more than two hours going over the charges with the jury and giving them directions on how to navigate their decision, with the panel of nine jurors beginning deliberations around 3:15 p.m. Their decision was read to the court shortly before 8 p.m.

    Bankman-Fried’s spectacular fall from grace happened over the course of a year — everything began falling apart for him and his businesses in November 2022, when Alameda’s balance sheets were leaked. As nervous customers rushed ran to withdraw their investments from FTX, the company was plunged into bankruptcy and an $8 billion gap of money the company owed customers but could not pay back was exposed.

    Three close business associates, friends and co-conspirators of Bankman-Fried testified against him after they pleaded guilty and signed cooperation agreements with the government.

    “This is not about complicated issues of cryptocurrency,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicolas Roos said Wednesday. “It’s not about hedging, it’s not about technical jargon. It’s about deception; it’s about lies; it’s about stealing; it’s about greed.”

    In remarks to reporters outside the courthouse Thursday night, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams praised the prosecution team and warned other bad actors.

    “This is a warning, this case, to every single fraudster who thinks they’re untouchable or who thinks their crimes are too complex for us to catch,” Williams said.

    Bankman-Fried may have a second trial next year, where he would face related charges.

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