NEW YORK (AP) — Crypto entrepreneur Sam Bankman-Fried was sentenced Thursday to 25 years in prison for mass murder fraud among hundreds of thousands of customers which unraveled with the collapse of FTX, once one of the world’s most popular digital currency exchange platforms.

U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan provided a blistering analysis of Bankman-Fried and his crimes before handing down a sentence that was half of what prosecutors sought and less than a quarter of the 105 years recommended by the court’s probation officers .

“There is absolutely no doubt that Mr. Bankman-Fried’s name is muddy pretty much everywhere in the world right now,” Kaplan said of the 32-year-old man who once seemed to be at the top of the cryptocurrency world before his companies collapsed and left in November 2022. customers, investors and lenders are short of more than 11 billion dollars, which the judge must forfeit.

He was convicted in November of fraud and conspiracy – a dramatic decline after a peak of success that included a Super Bowl ad and celebrity endorsements from such stars as quarterback Tom Brady, basketball star Stephen Curry and comedian Larry David.

Kaplan imposed the sentence in the same Manhattan courtroom where Bankman-Fried testified four months earlier that he planned to revolutionize the emerging cryptocurrency market with his innovative and altruistic ideas, not stealing. The judge said Bankman-Fried repeatedly committed perjury when he told lies from the witness stand.

Kaplan said the sentence reflected “that there is a risk that this man could do something very bad in the future. And it is not a trivial risk at all.” He added that it was “with the intention of incapacitating him to the extent that that can be appropriately done for a significant period of time.”

Kaplan said he would advise the Federal Bureau of Prisons to send Bankman-Fried to a medium-security prison near San Francisco because his fame, his association with enormous wealth, his autism and social awkwardness are likely to make him particularly vulnerable on a high level. security facility.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicolas Roos had recommended a prison sentence from 40 to 50 years old, saying it was the only way to ensure “the suspect doesn’t do it again.”

“The defendant victimized tens of thousands of people and companies across several continents over a period of several 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 carries a lengthy sentence,” prosecutors said in a court filing.

Prosecutors said Bankman-Fried embezzled billions of dollars to fuel his quest for influence and dominance in the new industry. illegally used money from FTX depositors to cover his expenses, which included the purchase of luxury properties in the Caribbean, bribes to Chinese officials and private jets.

Kaplan agreed with prosecutors Thursday that Bankman-Fried should not receive leniency just because some investors and customers could get back some of their losses. He noted that customers lost about $8 billion, investors lost $1.7 billion and lenders faced a shortfall of $1.3 billion.

When given the chance to speak, Bankman-Fried stood up and apologized in a lengthy statement: “A lot of people really feel let down. And they were very disappointed. And I’m sorry. I’m sorry for what happened at every stage.”

He added: ‘My useful life is probably over. It’s been over for a while, since before my arrest.”

Bankman-Fried, who was wearing his khaki-colored prison uniform and shackled at the ankles, appeared to become momentarily emotional as he spoke for about 20 minutes, expressing regret for “many mistakes” but placing some of the blame on others. His signature messy and bushy hair had returned from the trimmer look he displayed during the trial.

The judge later criticized these comments, saying he had “never expressed a word of regret for committing terrible crimes.”

Defense attorney Marc Mukasey said his client was misunderstood.

“Sam was not a ruthless financial serial killer who went out every morning to hurt people,” Mukasey said. “Sam Bankman-Fried does not make decisions with malice in his heart. He makes decisions with math in his head.”

Bankman-Fried’s lawyers, friends and family leniency had urged, saying he was unlikely to offend again. They also said FTX’s investors have recovered most of their money — a claim disputed by bankruptcy attorneys, FTX and its creditors.

“Mr. Bankman-Fried continues to live a life of delusion,” wrote John Ray, the CEO of FTX who cleaned up the bankrupt company. “The ‘company’ he left on November 11, 2022 was neither solvent nor safe.”

Two weeks ago, Mukasey attacked a parole office recommendation of 105 years in prison, saying a sentence of that length would be “grotesque” and “barbaric.”

He urged the judge to sentence Bankman-Fried to a prison term of five to six and a half years, which Mukasey said was a fair reading of federal sentencing guidelines.

Bankman-Fried was worth billions of dollars on paper as co-founder and CEO of FTX, once the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency exchange.

FTX allowed investors to purchase dozens of virtual currencies, from Bitcoin to more obscure currencies like Shiba Inu Coin. Bankman-Fried, flush with billions of dollars in investor money, placed a Super Bowl ad to promote his company and bought the naming rights to an arena in Miami.

But the collapse of cryptocurrency prices in 2022 took its toll on FTX and ultimately led to its demise. FTX’s hedge fund affiliate known as Alameda Research had purchased billions of dollars worth of various crypto investments that lost significant amounts of value in 2022. Bankman-Fried tried to plug holes in Alameda’s balance sheet with FTX customer funds.

Three other people from Bankman-Fried’s inner circle pleaded guilty to related crimes and testified at his trial.

The biggest name of the three was Caroline Ellison, once Bankman-Fried’s girlfriend. Ellison described Bankman-Fried as a calculating individual who knew he was likely committing crimes when he directed the use of client money. Two other former friends of Bankman-Fried, Gary Wang and Nishad Singh, also testified that they felt they had been directed by Bankman-Fried to commit fraud.

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