Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of FTX, pleaded not guilty Tuesday in a Manhattan federal courthouse to allegations that he misappropriated billions of dollars on his cryptocurrency exchange, engaging in one of the largest fraud schemes in US history.
Bankman-Fried, 30, was released shortly before Christmas on $250 million bond, which Manhattan federal prosecutors described as possibly the largest in U.S. history. He pleaded not guilty to an eight-count criminal indictment.
Bankman-attorney, Fried’s Mark Cohen, announced his client’s plea, saying, “He pleads not guilty to all counts.”
Bankman-Fried marched through a swarm of cameras as he entered the courthouse on a rainy day to make his first appearance before Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, wearing a backpack.
According to the indictment, he is accused of illegally combining funds from FTX Trading Ltd. with Alameda Research LLC, another company he controlled, to fund luxury real estate purchases and other personal expenses, as well as illegal federal campaign contributions.
Prosecutors allege that an estimated $8 billion in customer funds has gone missing.
Separate civil fraud cases have been filed against Bankman-Fried by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Bankman-attorneys Fried’s informed the judge in a letter prior to his appearance that their client’s parents had become targets of “intense media scrutiny, harassment, and threats,” including physical harm threats. The lawyers requested that the names of two people who are expected to sign Bankman-personal Fried’s recognisance bond of $250 million be redacted from court documents.
After being arrested in the Bahamas last month, Bankman-Fried agreed not to fight extradition to the United States. On Tuesday, Kaplan added to his bail conditions by prohibiting him from transferring cryptocurrency or the assets of FTX or Alameda Research, after a prosecutor accused him of transferring some to foreign regulators in the hope that they would be more lenient than US authorities.
Cohen stated that his client had not transferred any assets personally and that anything moved was mandated by a court order in the Bahamas.
Kaplan has scheduled a preliminary trial date for October 2. Former business associates Caroline Ellison, 28, and Gary Wang, 29, have pleaded guilty in the suspected fraud scheme and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in the case against Bankman-Fried.
Bankman-Fried appeared in front of Kaplan after Judge Ronnie Abrams recused herself due to her husband’s law firm’s representation of FTX.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams announced in a news release shortly before Bankman-arraignment Fried’s that he was forming a task force to investigate matters related to FTX’s demise. According to Williams, the task force will also attempt to locate and recover the assets of victims.
“The Southern District of New York is responding to the implosion of FTX around the clock,” Williams said. “It’s an all-hands-on-deck moment… to ensure that this critical work continues, backed by all of SDNY’s resources and expertise, until justice is served.”