Sam Bankman-Fried and Caroline Ellison retain high-powered attorneys amid the FTX investigation
Sam Bankman-Fred, founder of FTX and CEO of Alameda Research, Caroline Ellison, has hired high-profile criminal defense attorneys who specialize in white-collar crime amid ongoing law enforcement investigations into the collapse of their crypto empire.
Bankman-Fried was arrested in the Bahamas on Monday at the request of US authorities ahead of his possible extradition at a later date. On Tuesday, a federal prosecutor released an indictment that revealed Bankman-Fried is charged with eight counts.
The charges against him include wire fraud against customers, as well as a related conspiracy charge; wire fraud against lenders, in addition to a conspiracy charge; In addition to conspiracies to commit commodity fraud, securities fraud, money laundering, and campaign finance violations.
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In all, the charges Bankman-Fried faces carry a potential total penalty of up to 115 years in prison based on federal sentencing guidelines for those crimes. The wire fraud charges – including the conspiracy charges – and the money laundering conspiracy count carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison each. The commodities and securities fraud charges and campaign finance conspiracy charges each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
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The task of preventing Bankman-Fried from spending the rest of his life in prison if he is found guilty of the crimes he is accused of, falls to Mark Cohen, of the law firm Cohen & Gresser.
Cohen, a former federal prosecutor, has represented a variety of clients including financial firms, hedge funds, CEOs, energy companies and others facing federal charges. Notably, Cohen represented Jeffrey Epstein confidant Ghislaine Maxwell in the sex trafficking trial and was the defense attorney for Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who was a leader in the Sinaloa drug cartel.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has been charging a fee for alleged fraud many years ago
At a news conference Tuesday announcing the charges against Bankman-Fried, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams said the Bankman-Fried case, which has drawn comparisons to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme and the Enron scandal, will go down. “One of the largest frauds in American history.”
Williams also issued an ominous warning to the Bankman-Fried co-conspirators who could face charges, saying, “As to whether we’re going to press charges against everyone else, look, I can only say this: We’re clearly not done.”
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As of Tuesday, no charges have been filed against Caroline Ellison, the ex-girlfriend of Bankman-Fried who he appointed to lead Alameda research.
However, Ellison has retained the services of Stephanie Avakian, partner at law firm WilmerHale. Avakian has deep experience with legal issues related to the financial sector, having previously served as Director of the Enforcement Division of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
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Presently, Avakian leads WilmerHale’s securities and financial services division and has worked advising and defending publicly traded companies, corporate boards, investment banks and individual executives involved in government investigations.
Charles Gasparino of Fox Business noticed on twitter that Ellison’s selection of a WilmerHale attorney had fueled speculation that she would “cooperate” with prosecutors and turn on Bankman-Fried given the firm’s connections to the Manhattan federal district attorney’s office and its reputation for securing plea deals.
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