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U.S. prosecutors today hit ex-FTX boss and founder Sam Bankman-Fried with eight criminal charges, including wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Bahamas police arrested the disgraced crypto mogul yesterday at the request of U.S. authorities who are seeking his extradition.
The Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit at the Southern District of New York US Attorney’s Office charges Bankman-Fried with: conspiracy to commit wire fraud on customers; wire fraud on customers; conspiracy to commit wire fraud on lenders; wire fraud on lenders; conspiracy to commit commodities fraud; conspiracy to commit securities fraud; conspiracy to commit money laundering; and conspiracy to defraud the United States and violate the campaign finance laws.
Potential penalties for the charges against Bankman-Fried, also known as SBF, range from upwards of 20 years incarceration and hefty fines. If he is found guilty of all the charges, and the sentences run consecutively, he could be facing over 130 years in prison.
"Because so much money is involved in this case—literally hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions—SBF’s recommended 'sentencing range' under the United States Sentencing Guidelines will be extremely high—indeed, probably off the map,” Miriam Baer, vice dean & centennial professor of law at Brooklyn Law School, told Decrypt.
The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) also announced today a lawsuit against Bankman-Fried over alleged violations of federal commodities laws. The Securities and Exchange Commission likewise charged SBF with defrauding investors in FTX and other securities law violations.
"These are very serious charges. The criminal charges can result in prison time, fines and forfeiture orders," Thomas Gorman, a partner at the law firm Dorsey & Whitney LLP, told Decrypt. "The SEC charges are usually resolved with injunctions against future violations, the payment of disgorgement of ill-gotten gains and penalties."
Bankman-Fried was due today to speak to lawmakers in Washington, D.C. about the collapse of the digital asset exchange he founded.
Yesterday, he agreed to testify before a House Financial Services Committee—remotely and not in person—but declined an invitation from the Senate. In a statement from SBF’s arrest, House Financial Services Committee Chair Maxine Waters questioned the timing. “The public has been waiting eagerly to get these answers under oath before Congress, and the timing of this arrest denies the public this opportunity,” she said.
FTX spectacularly collapsed last month in by far the most dramatic fall in the cryptocurrency industry’s 13-year history.
The company, which let customers buy, sell, and store numerous digital assets, as well as place bets on the future prices of crypto through derivative products, was one of the most popular exchanges in the world.
But it went bust after it became clear the company did not have sufficient funds to back customers’ assets. This was because Alameda Research, a sister company also founded by Bankman-Fried, had the ability to use FTX customer assets for its own means, and without oversight, according to newly appointed FTX CEO John J Ray III.
SBF, a celebrity who courted politicians and donated millions to political parties, was not only one the richest men in crypto but one of the wealthiest people on the planet.
Today’s charges allege that SBF committed campaign finance fraud by violating prohibitions against corporate contributions and conduit contributions.
SBF said he was a proponent of effective altruism—getting as rich as possible to give money away to charity—but later admitted the “ethics stuff” was “mostly a front.”
Ray, who is in charge of reorganizing the company’s finances, said that the company’s collapse was caused by “a very small group of grossly inexperienced and unsophisticated individuals.”
Editor's note: This article was updated after publication to include additional details regarding the charges levied against Sam Bankman-Fried. It was also updated to include comments from legal experts.