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Sam Bankman-Fried: Disgraced ‘crypto king’ says he’s ‘haunted every day’ in first interview since being jailed | US News


Sam Bankman-Fried says he is “haunted” daily by “what was lost” after being jailed for stealing billions of dollars from his customers.

The disgraced crypto entrepreneur was the chief executive of FTX, which suddenly went bankrupt in November 2022 – leaving millions of users frozen out of their accounts, with funds worth $10bn (£7.9bn) missing.

He was sentenced to 25 years in prison last week after a jury in New York found him guilty of fraud and money laundering, in what prosecutors have described as “one of the biggest financial frauds in American history”.

In his first comments since being imprisoned, the 32-year-old said he was “of course” remorseful.

“I’m haunted, every day, by what was lost,” he told ABC News via emails from the Metropolitan Detention Centre in Brooklyn.

“It’s most of what I think about each day,” he added.

“I never intended to hurt anyone or take anyone’s money,” he went on. “But I was the CEO of FTX, I was responsible for what happened to the company, and when you’re responsible it doesn’t matter why it goes bad.

“I’d give anything to be able to help repair even part of the damage. I’m doing what I can from prison, but it’s deeply frustrating not to be able to do more.”

He reiterated his claims that he “never thought that what I was doing was illegal”, adding: “But I tried to hold myself to a high standard, and I certainly didn’t meet that standard.”

“I’ve heard and seen the despair, frustration and sense of betrayal from thousands of customers; they deserve to be paid in full, at current price,” he continued, saying he “felt the pain” of co-workers as he “threw away what they poured their lives into”.

Read more:
‘Incompetence and greed’: Crypto king’s jail term marks end of era
The meteoric rise and even sharper fall of Sam Bankman-Fried

Prosecutors said Bankman-Fried cost customers, investors and lenders billions by misappropriating funds to fuel his quest for influence and dominance in the new industry, and had illegally used money from FTX depositors to cover his expenses, which included purchasing luxury properties in the Caribbean, alleged bribes to Chinese officials and private planes.

At the sentencing hearing in Manhattan, Judge Lewis Kaplan said the businessman lied on the witness stand when he insisted he had no knowledge of customer funds being used this way.

The judge also described Bankman-Fried’s claim that victims will be paid back in full as “misleading and logically flawed”.

Sam Bankman-Fried. Pic: Reuters
Image:
Pic: Reuters

“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,” Judge Kaplan said.

The judge said the sentence reflected “a risk that this man will be in a position to do something very bad in the future”.

He added it was “for the purpose of disabling him to the extent that can appropriately be done for a significant period of time”.

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Bankman-Fried also expressed remorse in a rambling statement shortly before he was sentenced.

“A lot of people feel really let down. And they were very let down. And I’m sorry about that. I’m sorry about what happened at every stage,” he said in court.

“My useful life is probably over. It’s been over for a while now, from before my arrest.”

Flush with billions of dollars of investors’ cash, Bankman-Fried rode a crest of success that included a Super Bowl advertisement and celebrity endorsements from stars like quarterback Tom Brady, basketball star Stephen Curry and comedian Larry David.

But after the collapse of cryptocurrency prices in 2022, Bankman-Fried, who was one of the largest donors to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign in 2020, tried to plug the holes in the balance sheet of FTX’s hedge fund affiliate, known as Alameda Research.

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