Sam Bankman-Fried is found guilty of all seven charges
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
A jury in New York City has found the former crypto mogul Sam Bankman-Fried guilty of securities fraud, money laundering and five other criminal counts. Federal prosecutors said he orchestrated one of the largest financial frauds in history. NPR's David Gura has been covering this trial from the beginning. And David, tell us more about the verdict that just came in.
DAVID GURA, BYLINE: Yeah, Sam Bankman-Fried guilty of all seven criminal counts the government brought against him. These are mostly fraud charges, also some conspiracy charges. So he was found guilty of cheating investors and lenders, also found guilty of money laundering. Closing arguments by the prosecution and the defense ended yesterday. There was a short rebuttal by the U.S. government this morning. The jury began deliberating today around 2:00 in the afternoon, so it really only took them about five hours to come to this verdict. The judge extended the day so that they could deliberate this evening.
Of course, the burden of proof here was on the government to convince jurors of Bankman-Fried's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecutors said Sam Bankman-Fried was the mastermind behind a yearslong scheme to funnel billions of dollars from FTX customers to a trading firm he also controlled, called Alameda Research, and Bankman-Fried used that money on speculative investments to finance a life of luxury. He used tens of millions of dollars, Ari, to buy real estate for his friends and his family.
SHAPIRO: You know, given everything you've reported about how the trial went, it seems like this verdict is not a big surprise.
GURA: Yeah, there was some very compelling testimony by three of his top lieutenants, people Sam Bankman-Fried has known for years. They pleaded guilty to separate criminal charges and were cooperating witnesses for the government. Each of them said explicitly Sam Bankman-Fried directed them to commit crimes. His ex-girlfriend, Caroline Ellison, was one of them. She ran Alameda Research and told the court Bankman-Fried had her prepare misleading documents for investors and for lenders. Gary Wang, Nishad Singh said Bankman-Fried pushed them to give his trading firms special privileges on the FTX cryptocurrency exchange. Basically, they tweaked the computer code to give Alameda Research a $65 billion line of credit.
You know, their testimony was so damning that Bankman-Fried decided to throw a Hail Mary at the end. He took the stand in his own defense, and this is something you just don't see too often. And it didn't take long for us to figure out why. The cross-examination was withering. The government's lead prosecutor used Bankman-Fried's own words against him, from tweets and interviews and congressional testimony. She pointed out a lot of inconsistencies, and we'll have to see if any jurors talk about the verdict afterward. But it didn't seem like that gamble had the upside that Bankman-Fried had hoped for.
SHAPIRO: And so now that he's been found guilty on all seven counts, are you anticipating an appeal?
GURA: Yeah, Mark Cohen, Sam Bankman-Fried's lawyer, has shared a statement with NPR. He says - we respect the jury's decision, but we are very disappointed with the result. Mr. Bankman-Fried maintains his innocence and will continue to vigorously fight the charges against him.
You know, what Bankman-Fried argued in court is essentially what he'd argued in the court of public opinion before this trial - that he is innocent, and while he made some mistakes, mistakes aren't crimes. His attorney said Bankman-Fried didn't defraud anyone or steal any money. And they complained over and over again about how the prosecution portrayed their client. The defense said the government turned a math nerd into a movie villain.
SHAPIRO: So what happens next?
GURA: So there's that appeal, and Judge Kaplan has scheduled a sentencing hearing for early next year. The maximum penalty Bankman-Fried faces is 110 years in prison. And I'll note he is 31 years old. Bankman-Fried also faces civil suits from regulators, including the SEC. FTX's bankruptcy proceedings continue in Delaware. And I'll add - the company's debtors recently brought a civil suit against Bankman-Fried's parents. They are star professors at Stanford Law School. They were in the courtroom for their son's trial and the verdict. The debtors have accused them of enriching themselves with money from customers.
SHAPIRO: NPR's David Gura with that breaking news out of New York. Thanks a lot.
GURA: Thanks, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.