SBF Will Learn His Fate Today

Prosecutors are seeking up to 50 years
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 28, 2024 6:52 AM CDT
SBF Will Learn His Fate Today
FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried leaves federal court on July 26, 2023, in New York.   (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Former cryptocurrency kingpin Sam Bankman-Fried will be sentenced Thursday for crimes including wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. There's no question that the 32-year-old will face years in federal prison but there's a big gap between recommendations from prosecutors and those from his defense lawyers, the BBC reports. Prosecutors are seeking 40 to 50 years, while his defense argues that between 5 and 6.5 years is more appropriate. The maximum statutory sentence is more than 100 years. In victim impact statements, investors described how their lives were ruined when the FTX crypto exchange Bankman-Fried founded collapsed in 2022. More:

  • Predictions. Prosecutors have compared Bankman-Fried to Bernie Madoff, who was sentenced to 150 years. Former federal prosecutor Michael Weinstein predicts that Bankman-Fried will get 25 to 32 years, Bloomberg reports. "He's the millennials' Madoff," Weinstein says. "He may get out just in time to apply for Social Security." Other former federal prosecutors also expect a sentence between 20 and 40 years.

  • The judge. The sentence will be handed down by Judge Lewis Kaplan, and CNBC notes that he showed "little patience for Bankman-Fried during the defendant's four days on the stand." Former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani describes the 78-year-old judge as "old school" and predicts he will sentence Bankman-Fried to up to 30 years.
  • The crimes. "The defendant victimized tens of thousands of people and companies, across several continents, over a period of multiple years. He stole money from customers who entrusted it to him; he lied to investors; he sent fabricated documents to lenders; he pumped millions of dollars in illegal donations into our political system; and he bribed foreign officials," prosecutors said in a court filing, per the AP. "Each of these crimes is worthy of a lengthy sentence."
  • Sentencing factors. Jennifer Taub, a white-collar crime expert at Western New England University School of Law, tells Vox that Kaplan will consider factors including Bankman-Fried's age, the scale of his crimes, and deterrence. The judge is "going to have to figure out whether he thinks there is an opportunity for this guy to be rehabilitated," Taub says "I think it's a big deal, even though you're trying to deter him from hurting other people, you're trying to deter other young crypto people." Mitigating factors cited by Bankman-Fried's lawyers include his neurodiversity and his charity work.

  • One potential factor in his favor. Because of the surge in the value of cryptocurrencies and other assets, FTX customers are likely to receive up to 140% of what their holdings were worth on the day the exchange filed for bankruptcy, the Financial Times reports, citing sources close to restructuring talks. Bankman-Fried's lawyers argue that customer losses amount to "zero," but the extra payment customers could receive is still far below the "gains they would probably have made from the return of their assets," the FT notes. Bitcoin was trading at around $16,000 at the time and is at more than $70,000 now.
  • His last chance. Bankman-Fried, whose lawyers say he has been unfairly portrayed as an "evil genius," will have a last chance to show contrition when he takes the stand Thursday. "If he says he's had a chance to think about what he did and that he's very sorry for misusing the hard-won funds of investors, and that he wants to use his acumen in this field for the public good, then he may walk out with a prison sentence that is south of 20 years," corporate law attorney Tre Lovell tells CNBC.
(More Sam Bankman-Fried stories.)

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