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Sam Bankman-Fried sentenced to 25 Years on multi-billion-dollar fraud

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced former CEO of the crypto exchange FTX, was sentenced today - 25 years in federal prison. Bankman-Fried was found guilty last November of defrauding FTX investors, creditors and customers, stealing more than $8 billion in the process. Bloomberg reporter Zeke Faux was in the courtroom for today's sentencing. He is with us now. Hey there, Zeke.

ZEKE FAUX: Hi.

KELLY: Hi. Just tell us - it must have been fascinating inside the courtroom today. Paint me a picture of the scene.

FAUX: So Bankman-Fried was there now in a tan prison jumpsuit instead of the suit that he wore for the trial or his usual uniform of shorts and a day-old FTX T-shirt. It was a, you know, pretty somber occasion. He had one last chance to address the judge directly and to seek a light sentence. As he tends to do, he rambled for about 20 minutes.

And I have been wanting to see, having known him for a couple of years now, interviewed him several times - watching to see if he was going to change his story and admit that he had stolen money from FTX customers, that he was - participated in this fraud and throwing himself at seeking mercy from the judge. But instead, he stuck to the story that maybe mistakes were made, and he feels really bad about that, but not entirely his fault.

KELLY: Yeah, I gather...

FAUX: And clearly, the judge didn't like that.

KELLY: ...He said he was sorry. He said he was sorry for letting people down, and the judge was absolutely not buying it. And this gets to the sentencing because Bankman-Fried's defense team - his lawyers had asked for just five or six years in prison saying, look, there was no actual loss to the victims here. The judge rejected those arguments, saying, I don't see any remorse. Is that right?

FAUX: Yeah. Their argument is that the lawyers running the bankrupt company - they now say, in a kind of surprise twist, that they have found enough money that they think they're going to be able to repay the $8 billion that were missing when FTX failed. But the money that they've recovered is the result of mostly bets that Sam Bankman-Fried made with customer money that they had never given him permission to gamble with. So what the judge said is, like, this is as if you had robbed a bank, you'd taken your stolen money to Vegas, you made a few good bets, then you got caught, and you said, oh, OK, I'll pay it back now - can we just call it even? And he didn't like that idea.

KELLY: So he has sentenced Bankman-Fried to 25 years. Where will that time be served?

FAUX: He's recommended that Bankman-Fried serve his sentence at a medium-security prison out in California, so he'll be near his family.

KELLY: OK. How's the crypto market reacting to this?

FAUX: So the crypto market, for months now, has totally moved on from Bankman-Fried. The crypto boosters have pretty successfully convinced investors to forget about this giant fraud and about all sorts of other crypto frauds that we've seen. And bitcoin is back at record highs, and investors are piling back into, you know, even joke coins about pictures of dogs. It's truly kind of hard to believe, but that's what's happening.

KELLY: That is Bloomberg reporter Zeke Faux, who was in the courtroom today as Sam Bankman-Fried was sentenced to 25 years. Zeke Faux, thanks.

FAUX: Thanks a lot. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Jason Fuller
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
William Troop
William Troop is a supervising editor at All Things Considered. He works closely with everyone on the ATC team to plan, produce and edit shows 7 days a week. During his 30+ years in public radio, he has worked at NPR, at member station WAMU in Washington, and at The World, the international news program produced at station GBH in Boston. Troop was born in Mexico, to Mexican and Nicaraguan parents. He spent most of his childhood in Italy, where he picked up a passion for soccer that he still nurtures today. He speaks Spanish and Italian fluently, and is always curious to learn just how interconnected we all are.
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.