US Prosecutor Argues that SBF Deserves 40-50 Years in Prisonby@legalpdf
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US Prosecutor Argues that SBF Deserves 40-50 Years in Prison

by Legal PDFMarch 19th, 2024
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The prosecution's sentencing memorandum in the case of United States of America v. Sam Bankman-Fried details the extensive financial fraud, the impact on victims, and recommends a prison sentence of 40 to 50 years, emphasizing the need for justice and deterrence against similar crimes.
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USA v. Samuel Bankman-Fried Court Filing, retrieved on March 15, 2024 is part of HackerNoon’s Legal PDF Series. You can jump to any part in this filing here. This part is 1 of 33.

The Government respectfully submits this memorandum in advance of the sentencing of Samuel Bankman-Fried, presently scheduled for March 28, 2024, and in response to the defendant’s sentencing memorandum dated February 27, 2024 (“Def. Mem.”).


Samuel Bankman-Fried was convicted of orchestrating one of the largest financial frauds in history, and what is likely the largest fraud in the last decade. The enormous scale of the fraud at FTX is measured not just by the amount of money that was stolen, although the more-than-$8 billion of customer money that was misappropriated puts this crime in a class of cases that can be counted on one hand. The unprecedented scope of the fraud at FTX may also be measured in the number and types of victims, in the fraud’s geographic reach, and in the breadth and frequency of the unlawful and unethical acts undertaken by the defendant in service of a scheme to use other people’s money for his own benefit and influence. The defendant victimized tens of thousands of people and companies, across several continents, over a period of multiple years. He stole money from customers who entrusted it to him; he lied to investors; he sent fabricated documents to lenders; he pumped millions of dollars in illegal donations into our political system; and he bribed foreign officials. Each of these crimes is worthy of a lengthy sentence. The losses from each of the defendant’s frauds—on customers, investors, and lenders—would alone put the defendant’s advisory sentencing range at the top of the Guidelines. His unlawful political donations to over 300 politicians and political action groups, amounting to in excess of $100 million, is believed to be the largest-ever campaign finance offense. His bribe of Chinese government officials—totaling $150 million—was one of the single largest by an individual. Even following FTX’s bankruptcy and his subsequent arrest, Bankman-Fried shirked responsibility, deflected blame to market events and other individuals, attempted to tamper with witnesses, and lied repeatedly under oath.

With all the advantages conferred by a comfortable upbringing, an MIT education, a prestigious start to his career in finance, and a worthy idea for a startup business, Bankman-Fried could have pursued the rewarding, productive, and altruistic life he has sketched out in his sentencing submission. But instead, his life in recent years has been one of unmatched greed and hubris; of ambition and rationalization; and courting risk and gambling repeatedly with other people’s money. And even now Bankman-Fried refuses to admit what he did was wrong. Having set himself on the goal of amassing endless wealth and unlimited power—to the point that he thought he might become President and the world’s first trillionaire—there was little BankmanFried did not do to achieve it. While he did not spend the money he stole on nice clothes or cars, that does not mean his life has not been defined by excess. The trial record puts the lie to the statements in his submission that he was “never motivated by greed” and “eschews materialistic trappings.” Using customers’ and investors’ money, the defendant bought luxury real estate; he made risky investments that he otherwise could not afford; he made charitable donations (for which he still takes credit) using other people’s money; he made political contributions using other people’s money to get unrivaled access to political leaders; he promoted his company in a Super Bowl ad; he named a basketball arena after his company; and he paid for access to celebrities, to name just a few of the things on which he spent money. And unlike so many defendants before this Court, there are no persuasive mitigating conditions to explain his criminal conduct. His crimes are not the product of dire financial circumstances, passion or impulse, or a momentary lapse of judgment. Unlike other white collar offenders, the losses the defendant is responsible for are not borne exclusively by sophisticated investors or extrapolated based on a stock price drop.

The victims, on the other hand, include tens of thousands of everyday people. People who entrusted the defendant with their money, and relied on it being there when they wanted to withdraw it. The victims in this case include people who deposited their retirement funds and nest eggs with FTX; they include people in war-torn or financially insecure countries, who counted on FTX as a place to keep money safe; they include people who could not afford to have their money taken or rendered unavailable. They include people who lost their “entire life savings,” no longer have money to pay for a sick family member or children’s education, were deprived of the chance to “break generational poverty,” and are “devastated” and “heartbroken.” So the fact that two years later victims may receive some money back through FTX’s bankruptcy is of little comfort for those victims who needed the money in November 2022. The suffocating sense of dread and despair that victims felt when they could not withdraw their money, their shame and embarrassment, and the resulting damage to lives and businesses, cannot be undone through the bankruptcy. The assertions that customers will be repaid in full omit critical context about the nature of the claims allowed in the bankruptcy. And even as victims are repaid, that is the result of extensive work in the bankruptcy process and criminal forfeiture, not the result of the defendant’s actions, which in many respects have been counterproductive.

All of this conduct was willful. In every part of his business, and with respect to each crime committed, the defendant demonstrated a brazen disrespect for the rule of law. He understood the rules, but decided they did not apply to him. He knew what society deemed illegal and unethical, but disregarded that based on a pernicious megalomania guided by the defendant’s own values and sense of superiority. And he knew his customers’ expectations—that he would hold their money safe—but he disregarded them based on a callous belief that he could put their money to better use.

The scope, duration, nature, and sheer number of Bankman-Fried’s crimes, the resulting harm they have caused, the willful disregard of the rule of law, and the absence of countervailing mitigating circumstances render him exceptionally deserving of a sentence that is sufficiently severe to provide justice for the defendant’s crimes and to dissuade others from committing similar crimes, and that will permit the defendant to return to liberty only after society can be assured that he will not have the opportunity to turn back to fraud and deceit. Although it is unlikely (but not impossible) that the defendant will work in finance again, and will likely forfeit all of his ill-gotten gains, justice requires that he receive a prison sentence commensurate with the extraordinary dimensions of his crimes. For these reasons, the legitimate purposes of punishment require a sentence of 40 to 50 years’ imprisonment.

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This court case retrieved on March 15, 2024, from storage.courtlistener is part of the public domain. The court-created documents are works of the federal government, and under copyright law, are automatically placed in the public domain and may be shared without legal restriction.

Lead image source: Lam Yik/Bloomberg via Getty Images