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Testimony from Sam Bankman-Fried’s trusted inner circle will be used to convict him, prosecutors say

Aug 14, 2023, 5:17 PM

FILE — FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried leaves Manhattan federal court in New York, Feb. 16, 2023. P...

FILE — FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried leaves Manhattan federal court in New York, Feb. 16, 2023. Prosecutors said Monday, Aug. 14, they'll use testimony from Bankman-Fried's “trusted inner circle” of former executives at his collapsed cryptocurrency empire against him at an October trial. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Testimony from FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried’s “trusted inner circle” of former executives at his collapsed cryptocurrency empire will be used to prove at an October trial that he misappropriated billions of dollars from his investors to fuel his businesses, make illegal campaign contributions and enrich himself, prosecutors said Monday.

Prosecutors made the assertions in papers filed in Manhattan federal court, where Bankman-Fried is charged with defrauding investors in his businesses and illegally diverted millions of dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency from customers using his FTX exchange. He has pleaded not guilty.

The court filing, in which prosecutors describe evidence they plan to present to jurors, came three days after Bankman-Fried was sent to a federal jail in Brooklyn to await trial by Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who said there was probable cause to believe he had tried to tamper with witness testimony at least twice since his December arrest.

It also came on the same day that prosecutors filed a streamlined indictment that contains the seven charges Bankman-Fried faces at the Oct. 2 trial — but there’s no longer a campaign finance charge for now, though it could go to trial later if they are found to conform with the terms of an extradition treaty with the Bahamas.

Still, prosecutors said in the latest indictment that Bankman-Fried misappropriated customer money to help fund over $100 million in political contributions in advance of the 2022 election. The indictment said he sought to “maximize FTX’s political influence” and use “these connections with politicians and government officials to falsely burnish the public image of FTX as a legitimate exchange.”

Late Monday, Bankman-Fried’s lawyers filed their own court papers related to trial evidence. In them, they asked that the trial judge exclude evidence about the FTX bankruptcy, the solvency of FTC and its affiliated trading platform, Alameda Research, and their ability to pay customers back.

They also asked that the judge ban prosecutors from telling jurors that Bankman-Fried resigned from FTX. They said they may oppose the prosecution’s plans to introduce evidence related to severed or withdrawn counts, such as the campaign finance charge.

Before Friday, Bankman Fried, 31, had been living with his parents in Palo Alto, California, after signing a $250 million personal recognizance bond following his extradition from the Bahamas last December.

Prosecutors recently sought his detention, saying he had tried to intimidate his former girlfriend, Caroline Ellison — the onetime CEO of Alameda Research — by releasing some of her writing to a journalist.

On Monday, the government said they would rely on testimony from Ellison, FTX co-founder Gary Wang and former FTX engineering chief Nishad Singh to show jurors “the unlawful conduct directed and undertaken by the defendant.”

All three have pleaded guilty to criminal charges in cooperation agreements with the government that could earn them leniency at sentencing.

Prosecutors said they “formed the defendant’s trusted inner circle during the course of the conspiracy” and their testimony will be supplemented by multiple former employees of Alameda and FTX along with several victims, including customers, lenders and investors.

Other evidence will consist of financial records, Google documents and spreadsheets, and private communications, they added.

A spokesperson for Bankman-Fried declined comment on Monday.

Meanwhile, the judge on Monday granted a request by defense lawyers that their client be supplied his daily prescribed medications for depression and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

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Testimony from Sam Bankman-Fried’s trusted inner circle will be used to convict him, prosecutors say