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Former FTX Chief Executive Sam Bankman-Fried, who faces fraud charges over the collapse of the bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange, leaves the Manhattan federal court in New York City, U.S. March 30, 2023. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli/File Photo

SCIENCE & TECH: Sam Bankman-Fried apologizes to FTX ex-colleagues at sentencing hearing – One America News Network

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March 28, 2024 – 7:54 AM PDT

Former FTX Chief Executive Sam Bankman-Fried, who faces fraud charges over the collapse of the bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange, leaves the Manhattan federal court in New York City, U.S. March 30, 2023. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli/File Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Sam Bankman-Fried apologized to his former colleagues at the now-bankrupt FTX cryptocurrency exchange he founded at his sentencing hearing on Thursday, as the former billionaire wunderkind braces for the prospect of decades behind bars.

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A jury found Bankman-Fried, 32, guilty on Nov. 2 on seven fraud and conspiracy counts stemming from FTX’s November 2022 collapse. Prosecutors have called it one of the biggest financial frauds in U.S. history.

“They put a lot of themselves into it, and I threw that all away,” Bankman-Fried told U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who will determine his sentence later in the hearing in Manhattan federal court. “It haunts me everyday.”

“I’m sorry about that. I’m sorry about what happened at every stage. Things I should have done and said, things I shouldn’t have,” Bankman-Fried added.

The hearing marks the final step in Bankman-Fried’s downfall from an ultra-wealthy cryptocurrency entrepreneur and major political donor to the biggest trophy to date in a crackdown by U.S. authorities on malfeasance in digital asset markets.

In a potentially ominous sign for Bankman-Fried, Kaplan found that the defendant lied on the witness stand at his trial last year when he said he did not know that his hedge fund had spent FTX customer deposits

Kaplan also said he had found FTX customers lost $8 billion, FTX’s equity investors lost $1.7 billion, and that lenders to the Alameda Research hedge fund Bankman-Fried founded lost $1.3 billion, rejecting Bankman-Fried’s argument that customers would be paid back in full through the bankruptcy process.

“The defendant’s assertion that FTX customers and creditors will be paid in full is misleading, it is logically flawed, it is speculative,” Kaplan said. “A thief who takes his loot to Las Vegas and successfully bets the stolen money is not entitled to a discount on the sentence by using his Las Vegas winnings to pay back what he stole.”

Bankman-Fried has vowed to appeal his conviction and sentence.

He faces a statutory maximum of 110 years in prison, but will likely receive less. Prosecutors are seeking a prison sentence of 40 to 50 years.

“His life in recent years has been one of unmatched greed and hubris; of ambition and rationalization; and courting risk and gambling repeatedly with other people’s money,” the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan, which charged Bankman-Fried in December 2022, wrote in a March 15 sentencing memorandum.

Mukasey has argued that a sentence of less than 5-1/4 years would be appropriate. He said Bankman-Fried was not a “ruthless financial serial killer” but rather an “awkward math nerd” who worked hard to get customers their money back after FTX’s unexpected collapse.

“Sam Bankman-Fried doesn’t make decisions with malice in his heart,” Mukasey said. “He makes decisions with math in his head.”

Several FTX customers have written to Kaplan expressing dismay that they will be compensated based on the value of their cryptocurrency at the time of FTX’s bankruptcy, rather than the higher levels at which those assets currently trade.

One of those customers, London resident Sunil Kavuri, said at Bankman-Fried’s sentencing that he lost money he wanted to spend on a family home and his children’s education.

“Simply put, this is a continuous lie that we are all made whole,” Kavuri said.

Bankman-Fried has been detained at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn since August 2023, when Kaplan revoked his bail after finding he likely tampered with witnesses at least twice.

Wearing a tan short-sleeve jail t-shirt, Bankman-Fried was led into the courtroom by members of the U.S. Marshals Service before the hearing started. His parents, Stanford University law professors Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried, arrived at the federal courthouse earlier.

‘PROMISE OF FALSE HOPE’

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate, Bankman-Fried rode a boom in the values of bitcoin and other digital assets to a net worth of $26 billion, according to Forbes magazine, before he turned 30.

Bankman-Fried became known for his mop of unkempt curly hair and commitment to a movement known as effective altruism, which encourages talented young people to focus on earning money and giving it away to worthy causes.

He was one of the biggest contributors to Democratic candidates and causes ahead of the 2022 U.S. midterm elections.

But prosecutors say the responsible image he cultivated concealed his years-long embezzlement of customer funds.

At trial, three of his former close associates testified that he directed them to use FTX customer funds to plug losses at Alameda Research.

Bankman-Fried testified in his own defense that he made mistakes such as not implementing a risk management team, but denied he intended to defraud anyone or steal customers’ money.

In their sentencing memorandum, prosecutors said Bankman-Fried could commit fraud again if released at a young age.

“It is realistic that he will settle on a narrative, lean into it, and convince other people to part with their money based on lies and the promise of false hope,” prosecutors wrote.

Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Will Dunham, Noeleen Walder and Daniel Wallis

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