One year on from his arrest, on the 2nd of November 2023, a New York jury found Sam Bankman-Fried guilty on all seven counts he was charged with by the Department of Justice, including defrauding customers and investors of his crypto exchange FTX.
Bankman-Fried faces up to 120 years in prison and will be sentenced by Judge Lewis Kaplan at a later date.
Mark Cohen, Bankman-Fried’s lawyer, responded to the verdict in a statement: “We respect the jury’s decision. But we are very disappointed with the result. Mr. Bankman-Fried maintains his innocence and will continue to vigorously fight the charges against him.”
Here are five of the most shocking moments looking back at Bankman-Fried’s fraud trial.
The star witness – Bankman-Fried’s ex-girlfriend, and Alameda’s CEO
Alameda’s CEO, Caroline Ellison, Bankman-Fried’s ex-girlfriend, said he told her to steal $10bn from FTX’s customers and use it to repay firms that had lent money to Alameda.
“Sam directed me to commit these crimes,” Ellison said near the beginning of several days of testimony.
She also testified that Bankman-Fried instructed her to mislead lenders to make the firm’s finances look better than they actually were — a way to stop those lenders from getting nervous and asking for their money back.
Ellison has pleaded guilty to a series of fraud-related criminal charges and is cooperating with the prosecution in the hope of reducing her own prison sentence.
Meanwhile, Bankman-Fried’s former colleague Gary Wang told jurors: “We gave special privileges to Alameda Research on FTX, which allowed it to withdraw unlimited amounts of funds from the platform, and we lied about this to the public.”
Bankman-Fried allegedly oversaw a $100m bribe to the Chinese government – and called it ‘the thing’
One moment of the trial that drew audible gasps was when Ellison alleged that Bankman-Fried directed Alameda employees to pay a bribe to Chinese government officials in order to unfreeze $1bn it had stored on two Chinese crypto exchanges.
Ellison said that Alameda tried several methods of rescuing the money, including setting up trading accounts in the names of “Thai prostitutes.”
After those attempts were unsuccessful, Ellison alleged that Bankman-Fried resorted to bribery—and that then she refused to write about the event directly in internal documents, instead labelling it “the thing.”
“This was a pyramid of deceit”- Nicolas Roos closing argument:
After 15 days of trial, the closing arguments were given on Wednesday this week in New York.
“This was a pyramid of deceit built by the defendant on a foundation of lies and false promises, all to get money,” prosecutor Nicolas Roos said in his closing argument in Manhattan federal court.
“Eventually it collapsed, leaving thousands of victims in its wake.”
“This is not about complicated issues of cryptocurrency, not about hedging… it’s about lies, it’s about stealing, it’s about greed,” Roos told the court.
“He took the money, he knew it was wrong, and he did it anyway.”
The importance of Bankman-Fried’s hair:
Ellison testified that he carefully curated his appearance as a personal brand and as ambassador for FTX.
She said he opted not for a luxury car owned by the company but for a simple sedan: “It was better for his image to be driving a Toyota Corolla,” she said. He felt the same way about his unkempt hair, she said.
“He said he thought his hair had been very valuable. He said ever since Jane Street, he thought he had gotten higher bonuses because of his hair and that it was an important part of FTX’s narrative and image,” she testified.
Bankman-Fried and Ellison met at the trading firm Jane Street.
When Cohen presented his closing, he argued that the prosecutor’s case hinged too heavily on Bankman-Fried’s scruffiness rather than the substance of his actions.
He said the government had deliberately focused on his hair, clothes and sex life in order to paint him as a movie villain.
Bankman-Fried found guilty:
Bankman-Fried has been found guilty of fraud and money laundering at the end of a month-long trial in New York.
The jury delivered its verdict after less than five hours of deliberations.
It concludes a massive fall from grace for the 31-year-old former billionaire and one of the most public faces of the crypto industry.
He now faces decades in prison. His sentencing has been set for 28 March next year.