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Federal prosecutors requested that former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried become subject to more restrictions during his pretrial release after he allegedly tried to tamper with a witness through the encrypted messaging platform Signal.
The former cryptocurrency executive is awaiting trial for various fraud charges after he commingled funds between FTX and sister trading company Alameda Research. United States Attorney Damian Williams from the Southern District of New York asked Judge Lewis Kaplan in a letter to stop Bankman-Fried from contacting former FTX associates unless in the presence of counsel and asked that the disgraced entrepreneur lose access to Signal and similar platforms.
Bankman-Fried has allegedly been in contact with the current general counsel of FTX US, who might be a witness at the trial. He reportedly told the executive in a message that he “would really love to reconnect and see if there’s a way for us to have a constructive relationship, use each other as resources when possible, or at least vet things with each other.” Williams wrote that the request to “vet things with each other” is suggestive of an attempt to impact the witness’s testimony, while the “constructive relationship” appeal is an invitation to cooperate with him.
“Efforts by the defendant to improve his relationship with potential witnesses that may testify against him may itself constitute witness tampering,” he wrote. “Were the defendant to ‘vet’ his version of relevant events with potential witnesses, that might have the effect of discouraging witnesses from testifying in a manner contrary to the defendant’s narrative.”
Bankman-Fried can use Signal to “evade bail restrictions and pretrial oversight” since encrypted messages on the platform may autodelete after a short period of time. “The proposed bail conditions in combination would more effectively prevent the defendant from obstructing justice,” Williams added. “This proposed restriction will not inhibit the defendant’s ability to communicate with others as he could still use text message, email, and conventional telephone calls.”
Bankman-Fried pleaded not guilty earlier this month to eight charges, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and conspiracy to defraud the Federal Election Commission through campaign finance violations. Mark Cohen, a lawyer for Bankman-Fried who previously defended Jeffrey Epstein confidant Ghislaine Maxwell, successfully requested that the names and addresses of two unknown individuals who secured a $250 million bond for Bankman-Fried remain sealed. The entrepreneur could spend as much as 115 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
Bankruptcy lawyers managing the insolvency of FTX have recovered $5 billion of customer funds in the forms of cash, liquid cryptocurrency, and liquid investment securities. Authorities in the Bahamas, where FTX and other companies led by Bankman-Fried were headquartered, seized $3.5 billion of assets in the days after the company’s collapse.
Bankman-Fried’s extensive political connections came to public attention in the weeks after his company’s bankruptcy, including the $39 million he donated to Democrats ahead of the midterms and four meetings he was granted at the White House with top officials Steve Richetti and Bruce Reed. The Senate Majority PAC, which exists to elect Democrats to the upper chamber of Congress, announced plans to return $3 million donated by Bankman-Fried and another FTX executive.