Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), the founder of FTX, left the Bahamas on a flight to the U.S. on Wednesday to face fraud charges. At the same time, federal prosecutors announced that two of his former business partners had pleaded guilty to similar charges and were now helping the government.
In a video posted on Twitter late Wednesday night, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said that Caroline Ellison, the former CEO of Alameda Research, and Gary Wang, the co-founder of FTX, had admitted to scamming investors in the cryptocurrency trading platform.
When it came out that two of Bankman-closest Fried’s former friends had decided to help the government, the pressure on the former billionaire increased by a lot.
Williams said that Bankman-Fried is now in the custody of the FBI and is on his way to the U.S. He also asked anyone else involved in the alleged fraud to come forward.
“If you did anything wrong at FTX or Alameda, now is the time to fix it. We’re moving quickly, and we can’t wait forever. I also said that the announcement we made last week wouldn’t be our last, and let me be clear: neither is today’s.”Damian William is the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan.
Ellison and Wang had also been charged
In a separate statement on Wednesday evening, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said that Ellison and Wang had also been charged for their roles in a multiyear scheme to scam equity investors of FTX.
The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission said it had also charged Ellison and Wang with fraud.
Ellison’s lawyer didn’t answer our request for comment right away.
In a statement, Wang’s lawyer, Ilan Graff, said, “Gary has taken responsibility for what he did and takes his duties as a cooperating witness very seriously.”
Last week, federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged Bankman-Fried with stealing billions of dollars from FTX customers’ assets to cover losses at his hedge fund, Alameda Research. Williams called this “one of the biggest financial frauds in American history.”
The 30-year-old cryptocurrency mogul has admitted that FTX had problems with risk management, but he has said that he doesn’t think he has any criminal responsibility.
A member of Bankman-legal Fried’s team who was asked to comment declined to do so.
“FIX THE IMPORTANT CUSTOMERS”
Bankman-Fried rode a crypto boom to become a multi-billionaire and a powerful political donor in the U.S., but FTX’s crash wiped out all of his money and ruined his reputation. A wave of customers withdrew their money because they were worried about their money being mixed with Alameda’s.
Williams and the government made the announcements just hours after Bankman-Fried left The Bahamas, where he agreed in court to be sent to the US.
The plea deals were signed by Ellison and Wang on Monday, according to court records. Reuters and other news outlets had reported over the weekend that Bankman-Fried would give up his right to fight extradition.
$250,000 bond to get out of jail
The agreements say that Ellison and Wang must each post a $250,000 bond to get out of jail. They also say that prosecutors can ask a judge to take their cooperation into account when deciding their sentences if they “substantially helped in an investigation or prosecution.”
Bankman-Fried is probably going to go to a federal court in Manhattan, New York, on Thursday. At his court date, called an arraignment, he is likely to be asked to say how he will plead. The U.S. judge would decide if he could be released on bail and, if so, on what terms.
Last week, Bankman-Fried was arrested in The Bahamas, where he lives and where FTX is based, on a U.S. extradition request. He finally agreed to extradition in part because he “wanted to make the relevant customers whole,” according to an affidavit from December 20 that was read in court on Wednesday.
Bankman-Fried walked up to the witness box in court wearing a suit. As he was sworn in, he spoke clearly and steadily.
Yes, he told Judge Shaka Serville on Wednesday, he wanted to give up his right to formal extradition proceedings.
The defense attorney for Bankman-Fried, Jerone Roberts, said that his client was “eager to leave.”
The judge said that he was sure that Bankman-Fried had not been “forced, coerced, or threatened” into agreeing to the extradition.
The $32 billion exchange filed for bankruptcy on November 11, and Bankman-Fried quit as CEO the same day.