Sam Bankman-Fried Released on $250M Bail Secured by Parents

A federal judge agreed to release former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried after he appeared in U.S. federal court Thursday on charges that he was the mastermind behind the fraud and illicit movement of customer funds inside his former crypto empire, setting his bail at $250 million.

Bankman-Fried, who was brought to the U.S. overnight by the Federal Bureau of Investigation after his extradition from the Bahamas cleared on Wednesday, arrived at the courthouse in New York to face the U.S. felony charges for the first time. The case in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York centers on accusations of fraud, money laundering, and campaign-finance violations.

Bankman-Fried's release was secured by equity in his parents' Palo Alto, California, home, and a long list of requirements was included for him to remain free while he faces charges.

Prosecutors have been closing in on the disgraced crypto frontman, inking plea deals inside the FTX inner circle. Caroline Ellison, the former CEO of FTX’s sister company Alameda Research, and Gary Wang, the other co-founder of FTX, pleaded guilty to federal charges and also admitted guilt in securities violations, according to statements from U.S. prosecutors and regulators late Wednesday.

The cooperation of Ellison and Wang – who admitted playing active roles in the company’s fraud – is likely to be key in the case against Bankman-Fried. They’ve admitted that the senior management was aware of lawbreaking in the movement of customer funds between the two firms.

In return, Ellison’s recently unsealed plea agreement says that as long as she’s helping the SDNY's investigation, as well as any other law enforcement agency involved in the case, she won't face further criminal prosecution apart from potential tax violations. Her bail was set at $250,000, and she has to forfeit her travel documents.

The charges against Bankman-Fried’s FTX cohorts further illuminated the illicit flow of customer money between FTX and Alameda, the trading firm Bankman-Fried also founded, and it described how the senior executives falsely propped up the apparent value of FTT, the exchange’s native token.

Ellison and Wang also settled enforcement actions with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). In the SEC case, it listed FTT as a security – another shot across the bow in the industry’s standoff with the securities regulator.

“Caroline Ellison and Sam Bankman-Fried schemed to manipulate the price of FTT, an exchange crypto security token that was integral to FTX, to prop up the value of their house of cards,” SEC Chair Gary Gensler said in a Wednesday night statement. “Until crypto platforms comply with time-tested securities laws, risks to investors will persist.”

UPDATE (Dec. 22, 2022, 18:56 UTC): Adds details about Bankman-Fried's bail agreement.