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March 26, 2024

FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried Must Be Sentenced to Prison for A Very Long Time for His Historic Crypto Crime Spree

To:       Interested Parties
From:  Dennis Kelleher, President and CEO (Media Contact: Madeline Tucker, Press Secretary,
Date:   March 26, 2024
Re:       Sentencing of Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), Former FTX CEO, for His Crypto Crime Spree

The good news is that Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), a criminal crypto kingpin, has been brought to justice: arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and likely to be sentenced this week to many years in prison. The bad news is that the prosecutors dropped innumerable additional charges related to his massive illegal campaign finance conspiracy to buy politicians, influence elections, and get Washington to sell out the public and do his bidding. This was a direct attack on our democracy and has inexcusably been treated as unworthy of prosecutors’ attention. Additionally, SBF didn’t do any of this alone. His numerous widespread criminal activities required dozens if not hundreds of others to help and enable him. We have yet to see whether or not any of them, including those who pled guilty and became government witnesses, will be appropriately punished for their crimes.

If the claim of equal justice under the law is to mean anything, white collar criminals simply must be severely punished, including SBF and his co-conspirators. Long prison sentences simply cannot only be for street crime and those unlucky enough not to be born to a life of privilege like SBF and too poor to afford SBF’s lawyers, consultants, and PR shills. If the white-collar crime spree is to be ended, justice must be served from the suites to the streets.


From buying Super Bowl ads to living in a jail cell—Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) will soon learn his fate for “orchestrating one of the largest financial frauds in history, and what is likely the largest fraud in the last decade.”[1] On December 13, 2022, the Department of Justice filed charges against SBF including fraud, money laundering, and campaign finance offenses.  After trial in the Southern District of New York, SBF was found guilty on November 2, 2023, of all seven counts he faced, including securities fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.[2] He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 28, 2024, in the Southern District of New York.

SBF’s crime spree is actually much worse because he also engaged in a massive, egregious criminal conspiracy to corruptly influence campaigns and policymaking in Washington D.C. According to prosecutors,

“his unlawful political donations to over 300 politicians and political action groups, amounting to in excess of $100 million, is believed to be the largest-ever campaign finance offense.”[3]

Inexplicably, federal prosecutors announced last year that they would not prosecute the criminal campaign finance charges against SBF, including conspiracy to make unlawful campaign contributions and conspiracy to bribe foreign officials. Prosecutors made this decision despite ample evidence and a high likelihood of a conviction. These criminal campaign finance corruption activities were just one part of a massive influence campaign designed to promote crypto industry priorities in Washington, D.C. FTX even offered Better Markets “$1 million or more” if it would support its then pending predatory application at the CFTC. Thus, SBF not only led a criminal crypto scheme to steal from countless investors and customers but also egregiously violated campaign finance laws, engaged in other activities to corruptly influence elections and policymaking, and undermined democracy. The prosecution’s decision to not pursue these extraordinarily serious charges lets SBF and his criminal cronies off the hook and represents an historic lost opportunity to reveal the corrupt influence industry that too often runs Washington, DC.

The Government’s Sentencing Memorandum spells out SBF’s fraud on FTX’s customers,[4] FTX’s investors, and Alameda’s lenders as well as his illegal political contributions.[5] In addition, it details SBF’s bribe of Chinese government officials[6] though accounts opened on Chinese crypto exchanges in the names of Thai sex workers.[7] For this, the Government recommends that “the legitimate purposes of punishment require a sentence of 40 to 50 years’ imprisonment.”[8] And, the federal probation department recommended a 100-year sentence, “effectively a life sentence,” according to the New York Times.[9]

For his part, SBF argues in his sentencing memo for a sentence of only 5 ¼ to 6 ½ years,  claiming that he “never valued or desired great personal wealth or status.”[10] SBF’s sentencing memo makes much of the possibility that some investors may get their money back from the bankruptcy proceeding, asserting that “[SBF] was vindicated in January 2024, when the FTX bankruptcy estate announced that it could ‘cautiously predict’ exactly what Sam had been saying since November 2022:  Customers AND general unsecured creditors with allowed claims will eventually be paid in full.”[11]  As the Government in its sentencing memo correctly points out, however, SBF’s victims’ potentially recovering their money years later is no reason to reduce SBF’s  sentence for his crimes:

“That some victims may receive some money back through FTX’s bankruptcy is of little comfort for those victims who needed the money in November 2022.  The suffocating sense of dread and despair that victims felt when they could not withdraw their money, their shame and embarrassment, and the resulting damage to lives and businesses, cannot be undone through the bankruptcy . . . [a]nd even as victims are repaid, that is the result of extensive work in the bankruptcy process and criminal forfeiture, not the result of the defendant’s actions, which in many respects have been counterproductive.”[12]

Continuing to prove his detachment from reality, SBF’s reply to the government’s sentencing memo doubles down on his baseless claim that his crimes were victimless, arguing that, “[t]he truth is, there were never any losses.  The money has always been available.”[13]

Beyond the issue of losses, SBF’s sentencing memo makes clear that he knew—and knows—that crypto investments are highly speculative bets.  Attempting to draw a distinction between himself and another infamous fraudster, Bernie Madoff, SBF writes:

“Madoff also preyed, in large part, on a tight network of families and pension funds that believed they were investing in a conservative vehicle.  The crypto investor/trader has a very different risk profile.[14]

SBF seems to be suggesting that it was okay that he stole, lied, bribed, and plundered because his victims had it coming for being foolish enough to invest in something as risky as crypto.

This casual disregard for the many retail investors and others hurt by SBF and FTX challenges the recent criticism of lengthy sentences for Wall Street fraudsters in the New York Law Journal, offered by former United States District Court Judge John S. Martin.[15]   Contrary to Judge Martin’s position that 100-year sentences have had “no impact on crime rates”[16] it is, in fact, the only way to actually punish and deter crime—especially where a convicted defendant fails to appreciate the gravity of his offenses and the damage they have done.  Clawing back all the fraudsters compensation, barring them from the industry, and, when appropriate as it is here, sending them to prison for a very long time simply has to be the expectation if not the norm for those breaking the law.

Taking such actions consistently against white collar lawbreakers is the only way to actually deter corporate crime in the financial industry and end the crime spree on Wall Street, which continues to be rampant as has been repeatedly detailed (including here and here). In a just society where the rule of law is supposed to apply to all equally, long prison sentences simply cannot be reserved for street crime and those too poor to afford SBF’s lawyers, consultants, and PR shills. Justice should be served from the suites to the streets.

While just how much time SBF serves remains to be seen, this much is clear: the next Super Bowl ad that SBF watches will not be from his quarter billion dollar Bahamas property bought with stolen customer funds. That’s the good news. However, it would be better news if prosecutors continued to equally zealously prosecute SBF’s and his many co-conspirators for their criminal attack on our democracy.

Additional Crypto Related Resources From Better Markets
Including Additional Information on Sam Bankman-Fried and FTX’s Illegal Conduct

Better Markets regularly writes about crypto-related issues, tracks developments, and warns of the dangers that crypto offerings pose to investors.  For more information, please see our compilation of advocacy related to crypto on the Better Markets website here.


[1]  The Government’s Sentencing Memorandum, United States v. Samuel Bankman-Fried, S6 22 Cr. 673 (S.D.N.Y., filed Mar. 15, 2024) (Doc. No. 410), at 3.

[2]  In addition to the criminal charges, the massive fraud of SBF and FTX has spurred numerous civil lawsuits and enforcement actions.  For example, on December 13, 2022, the SEC, filed an enforcement action in the Southern District of New York against SBF alleging that he defrauded investors in crypto asset trading platform FTX by concealing his diversion of FTX customers’ funds to crypto trading firm Alameda Research LLC, SBF’s privately-held crypto hedge fund, while raiding more than $1.8 billion from investors.  The SEC alleged that in his representations to investors, SBF promoted FTX as a safe, responsible crypto asset trading platform, specifically touting FTX’s sophisticated, automated risk measures to protect customer assets.  On December 21, 2022, the SEC also filed an enforcement action against other FTX executives, Caroline Ellison and Gary Wang for defrauding investors in crypto asset trading platform FTX.  And on December 13, 2022, the CFTC also filed an enforcement action for fraud and misrepresentation against SBF, FTX Trading Ltd. d/b/a, and Alameda Research LLC in connection with the sale of digital commodities in interstate commerce, alleging that the defendants’ actions caused the loss of $8 billion in FTX customer deposits.

[3]  Supra, n. 1.

[4]   Id. (“The more-than-$8 billion of customer money that was misappropriated puts this crime in a class of cases that can be counted on one hand.”)

[5]  Id.

[6]  “[T]otaling $150 million— . . . one of the single largest by an individual.”  Id.

[7]  Id. at 23.

[8]  Id. at 4.

[9]  Matthew Goldstein and David Yaffe-Bellany, Sam Bankman-Fried Should Get 40 to 50 Years in Prison, Prosecutors Say, N.Y. Times (Mar. 15, 2024).

[10]  Sam Bankman-Fried’s Sentencing Memorandum, United States v. Samuel Bankman-Fried, S6 22 Cr. 673 (S.D.N.Y., filed Feb. 27, 2024) (Doc. No. 407), at 97.

[11]  Supra, at 4; see also, Alex Kirsner, “The FTX Saga Twist That Might Save SBF in Sentencing,” The Slate, Mar. 6, 2024.

[12]  Supra, n. 1 at 3.

[13]  Id. at 1.

[14]  Id. at 74-75 (emphasis added).

[15]  John S. Martin, Cruel but Not Unusual:  The Sentence Recommended for Sam Bankman-Fried, N.Y. Law J. (Mar. 12, 2024).

[16]  Id.



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