The jury returned a verdict of guilty on all seven counts in the trial of Sam Bankman-Fried.
“Mr. Bankman-Fried. Please rise and face the jury,” Judge Lewis A. Kaplan commanded just before a jury forewoman responded “guilty” seven times to two counts of wire fraud, two counts of wire fraud conspiracy and three other conspiracy charges, which carry potential penalties adding up to 110 years in prison. Bankman-Fried is likely to face far less than the maximum at a sentencing set for March 28.
Given the complexity of the entire cryptocurrency enterprise that few understand, there was the possibility that the jurors might be overwhelmed. The defense indeed emphasized that it was so complex that even their client was out of his depth and did not know what was going on and did not have the intent to defraud.
However, the prosecution decided to treat the whole cryptocurrency part as just a black box whose details were largely irrelevant. What they focused on was common-or-garden fraud, whereby SBF took the money of investors and diverted it for his personal use, including a lavish lifestyle.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams, who sat in the front row of the spectator section during the verdict, stood before cameras outside the courthouse and said Bankman-Fried “perpetrated one of the biggest financial frauds in American history, a multibillion dollar scheme designed to make him the king of crypto.”
“But here’s the thing: The cryptocurrency industry might be new. The players like Sam Bankman-Fried might be new. This kind of fraud, this kind of corruption is as old as time and we have no patience for it,” he said.
He said the case should serve as a warning to every other fraudster who “thinks they’re untouchable, that their crimes are too complex,” that they are too powerful to prosecute or can talk their way out of their crimes because “I promise we’ll have enough handcuffs for all of them.”
That kind of fraud is easy to understand and the jury provided a verdict very quickly after just a few hours.