FTX Founder Sam Bankman-Fried Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison

A US federal judge in the Southern District of New York has sentenced Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of bankrupt crypto exchange FTX, to 25 years in prison. In addition, Bankman-Fried has been ordered to forfeit $11 billion.

Last November, at the end of a month-long trial, Bankman-Fried—known colloquially as SBF—was found guilty of seven counts of fraud and conspiracy in connection with the collapse of FTX.

The exchange had fallen to pieces in November 2022 after running dry of funds with which to process customer withdrawals. The money was missing, the jury concluded, because Bankman-Fried had conducted an elaborate fraud whereby billions of dollars’ worth of user funds was swept into a sibling company and used to bankroll high-risk trading, venture bets, debt repayments, personal loans, political donations, and a lavish life in the Bahamas.

In a court filing, the US government described the affair as “one of the largest financial frauds in history.” Bankman-Fried had demonstrated “unmatched greed and hubris” and a “brazen disrespect for the rule of law,” it said.

“The judgment has to adequately reflect the seriousness of the crime. This was a very serious crime,” said Judge Lewis Kaplan, who presided over the case, before delivering the sentence. He cited the “enormous harm” inflicted by Bankman-Fried, the “brazenness of his actions,” and “his incredible flexibility with the truth.”

Kaplan also criticized Bankman-Fried for his conduct on the witness stand during trial. Not only did Bankman-Fried perjure himself, the judge claimed, he was also “evasive” and “hairsplitting” in his responses to the prosecution’s questions. “I’ve been doing this job for almost 30 years, and I’ve never seen a performance quite like this,” said Kaplan.

As Bankman-Fried received the sentence, he stood with his head lowered and hands together, an incongruously placid expression on his face.

The sentencing completes a remarkable fall from grace. Between 2019 and 2022, Bankman-Fried steered FTX to a $32 billion dollar valuation, becoming for a time the world’s youngest self-made billionaire. The 32-year-old fraternized with regulators, politicians, sports stars, and supermodels. He won the adoration of venture capitalists, who fawned over him, and the media, which lionized him as the “next Warren Buffett” and the “Michael Jordan of crypto.” Privately, Bankman-Fried reportedly told others that he aspired to be the President of the United States.

In his sentencing statement, Judge Kaplan cited political aspiration as one of the underlying motives of Bankman-Fried’s crime, pointing to his enormous contributions to candidates on both the left and right as “the biggest political financial crime in history.”

“He wanted to be a hugely politically influential person in this country,” Kaplan said. “The goal was power and influence.”

Instead of that political future—at least for years to come—Bankman-Fried will be consigned to a far less illustrious life in prison.

In considering the appropriate sentence for Bankman-Fried, the judge was required to take into account a blend of factors beyond the details of the underlying crimes. Those include the extent of the financial losses dealt upon the victims, the defendant’s character and history, whether any obstruction of justice had taken place, the likelihood of recidivism, and so forth.


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