Sam Bankman-Fried pleads not guilty, trial set for October

Billionaires

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – DECEMBER 22: FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried leaves Manhattan Federal Court after his arraignment and bail hearings on December 22, 2022 in New York City. | Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Sam Bankman-Fried pleaded not guilty to all eight criminal charges related to the collapse of his FTX crypto empire in a Manhattan federal court Tuesday, setting the stage for one of the most high-profile white-collar criminal trials ever.

While the plea was expected, it puts the case on track for months of pretrial jockeying. The trial itself was given a tentative start date of Oct. 2, and prosecutors said they would produce the bulk of the evidence against the former billionaire within two weeks.

That will give Bankman-Fried and his legal team, led by defense attorney Mark S. Cohen, insight into the evidence that prosecutors have collected against him.

The judge also granted a request by prosecutors to prohibit Bankman-Fried from accessing or moving funds belonging to FTX and its associated hedge fund Alameda Research, both of which he founded.

The charges leveled against Bankman-Fried last month include wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Federal prosecutors have alleged Bankman-Fried orchestrated one of the “biggest financial frauds in American history” by steering billions of dollars of FTX customer and investor money to Alameda. The funds were used for equity investments, lavish real estate purchases and hefty political donations, according to prosecutors.

The fallen mogul faces up to 115 years in prison if found guilty on all counts. He is also facing civil action from the Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Two senior executives associated with the collapse — Gary Wang, the co-founder and former CTO of FTX, and Caroline Ellison, who served as Alameda’s CEO — have already pleaded guilty to multiple criminal charges and are cooperating with federal prosecutors.

Bankman-Fried was extradited to the United States on December 21 from the Bahamas, where he lived and where FTX is headquartered. He was released from custody after his parents signed a $250 million recognizance bond pledging their California home as collateral. Names of two other bail providers were withheld at least temporarily.

Crypto wallets associated with Bankman-Fried reportedly began moving funds a few days after he posted bail, terms of which forbid him from making financial transactions of more than $1,000 unless they are used to cover legal costs or conducted with permission from the court. Bankman-Fried denied on December 30 that he had made the transactions.