Sam Bankman-Fried faces up to 115 years in prison on charges he organized ‘one of the biggest financial frauds in American history’


Sam Bankman-Fried faces up to 115 years in prison if he’s convicted on all eight charges filed by the US Department of Justice on Tuesday — though he’s unlikely to be sentenced to that long a term. 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Securities Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission have been working “around the clock” to unravel what happened in “one of the  biggest financial frauds in American history,” Manhattan US Attorney Damian Williams said during a press conference. The SEC and the CFTC sued Bankman-Fried separately on Tuesday for his alleged role in the collapse of FTX.  White-collar defendants, if convicted, rarely serve statutory maximum sentences.

“Fraud is fraud,” FBI New York Assistant Director in Charge Michael Driscoll said in the press conference. “It does not matter the complexity of the investment scheme, it does not matter the amount of money involved.”  

Bankman-Fried, 30, was arrested in the Bahamas on Monday and is accused of misusing billions of dollars in customer money to prop up his Alameda Research crypto fund and influence US public policy, Williams said. The FTX founder faces two counts of wire fraud, two of wire fraud conspiracy, and one of the money-laundering charges, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, the DOJ said in a statement. He’s also charged with conspiracy to commit commodities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and conspiracy to defraud the US and commit campaign finance violations, each carrying a maximum five-year term.

Congress sets the statutory maximum terms, but a judge will ultimately determine the length of the sentence. 

 Prisoners faced rodents and a lack of toilets in the Bahamas detention center where Sam Bankman-Fried will be held, according to a 2021 U.S. State Department report, though local authorities say conditions have since improved.

The 30-year-old Bankman-Fried arrived at a Bahamas court on Tuesday for his first in-person public appearance since the spectacular collapse of the cryptocurrency exchange he founded.

He did not waive a hearing on his extradition to the United States to face charges of misappropriating funds and violating campaign laws, apparently in hopes of obtaining bail, but was instead remanded to the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services until Feb. 8 by Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt.

Bahamian Commissioner of Correctional Services Doan Cleare said preparations were being made for him to be housed in the medical department. That would mean he will be in a sick bay that can hold about five people, Cleare said.

"He will be in sick bay for orientation purposes and then we will determine where best to place him," Cleare said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

The U.S. State Department in a 2021 report described conditions at the facility, also known as Fox Hill Prison, as "harsh," citing overcrowding, rodent infestation, and prisoners relying on buckets as toilets.

Cleare said on Tuesday that prison conditions have greatly improved thanks to a renovation program that has built new cells.

"The facilities, most of them have been renovated," Cleare said. "We have one more to go and we don't have any issues with rodents."

Larry Levine, the founder of Wall Street Prison Consultants, which advises those convicted of white-collar crimes on how to get into better prisons, said that Bankman-Fried should not fight extradition.

"There is no advantage to him staying, he'll be sent to the U.S. eventually anyway," Levine said.

U.S. prosecutors on Tuesday accused Bankman-Fried, the founder and former CEO of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, of fraud and violating campaign finance laws, saying he made illegal campaign contributions to Democrats and Republicans with "stolen customer money."

Mark S. Cohen, Bankman-Fried's lawyer, said in a statement that his client was considering all of his legal options.

Bankman-Fried has apologized to customers and acknowledged oversight failings at FTX, but said he does not personally think he has any criminal liability.

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