SBF's Ex-Girlfriend: He 'Directed' Me to Break Law

Caroline Ellison, who ran his Alameda trading platform, pins the blame on Sam Bankman-Fried
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 10, 2023 2:17 PM CDT
SBF's Ex-Girlfriend: He 'Directed' Me to Break Law
Caroline Ellison, former CEO of Alameda Research, founded by Sam Bankman-Fried, arrives at federal court Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, in New York.   (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

The government's star witness in its case against alleged crypto swindler Sam Bankman-Fried took the stand on Tuesday—and she pinned the blame squarely on him. "He directed me to commit these crimes," said Caroline Ellison, 28, per the New York Times. Ellison has a singular role in the case against the founder of the now-defunct FTX cryptocurrency exchange: She not only ran his affiliated trading platform, Alameda Research, but she was Bankman-Fried's on-and-off girlfriend. Ellison, who already has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with authorities in expectation of a reduced sentence, told the court she took about $14 billion from FTX customer deposits—at the direction of Bankman-Fried—so she could fund investments and repay Alameda lenders, per the BBC.

The AP notes this unusual moment in the courtroom: When asked to identify Bankman-Fried in the courtroom, "she scanned the courtroom for a long minute, at first unable to find him, before gesturing his way with a flip of her hand and saying he was 'over there wearing a suit.'" Her difficulty in spotting him may be because Bankman-Fried has trimmed his famously wild hair and dropped quite a bit of weight while in prison awaiting trial. If convicted, the 31-year-old Bankman-Fried might well spend the rest of his life behind bars. His defense team has argued that Ellison is partly to blame for the collapse of FTX because she ignored warnings about the volatility of the crypto market.

The reason Bankman-Fried is currently in prison revolves around Ellison. Over the summer, he shared private messages from her with the New York Times, and the judge in the case revoked his bail because of what he viewed as witness intimidation, per the BBC. In one of those messages, Ellison wrote about the stresses of running Alameda. "At the end of the day I can't wait to go home and turn off my phone and have a drink and get away from it all," she wrote in February 2022. (More Sam Bankman-Fried stories.)

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