Former SEC attorney John Reed Stark took to social media on Monday with an in-depth forecast of how Sam Bankman-Fried’s criminal trial is likely to play out.
The disgraced ex-boss of defunct crypto exchange FTX faces sweeping fraud charges that may collectively earn him a lifetime in prison. Though he will soon have his day in court, Stark says the founder’s chances of acquittal are low.
“Rarely in the history of financial fraud prosecutions has a DOJ team possessed this level of unconstrained access to such an extraordinary treasure trove of witnesses and evidence,” wrote the ex-lawyer on Twitter on Monday.
Stark noted the many high-profile executives close to Bankman-Fried who have already pled guilty to reduce their criminal sentences. They include FTX co-founder Gary Wang, engineering director Nisha Singh, FTX Digital Markets CEO Ryan Salame, and Alameda Research CEO Caroline Ellison.
Ellison—who was also SBF’s on-again, off-again girlfriend—admitted in her publicly leaked diary that she felt unequipped to run Alameda, the SBF-owned crypto trading desk deeply tied to the fraud. After leaking her diary to the media, SBF saw his bail revoked for witness tampering.
With such a powerful lineup of cooperating witnesses, Stark believes the prosecution’s stockpile of documented evidence of Bankman-Fried’s illegal dealings “is arguably unprecedented for a financial fraud trial.”
He said John Ray III’s handling of the exchange’s bankruptcy will also likely weigh against its founder. A month after assuming control of the exchange, Ray testified before Congress stating that FTX was an “unprecedented” corporate failure due to its “complete absence of trustworthy financial information.”
Stark believes Ray has likely handed the government most of his findings, offering access to a mountain of inculpatory evidence against SBF.
Lastly, Bankman-Fried has likely already incriminated himself through his post-FTX “public relations campaign,” during which he engaged in multiple interviews with independent journalists, legacy media, and Twitter spaces in an attempt to clear his name.
“SBF has simply refused to shut-up,” Stark wrote. “Whether SBF is crazy like a fox or cannot control his compulsive desire to bare his soul is a debate left for not just legal, but psychological experts as well.”
According to Stark, his hours of on-the-record explanations and responses open up major possibilities for impeachment—providing evidence that reveals inconsistencies and falsehoods in a person’s statements over time.
Federal prosecutors involved in other cryptocurrency fraud schemes told Decrypt last week that they also see few paths to victory for SBF. Daniel C. Silva, who helped prosecute BitConnect, said the trial would “be pretty overwhelming if it is brought to a jury in the same way that it was laid out in the indictment.”
Jordan Estes, a partner at the law firm Kramer Levin, said Ellison’s presence could add drama to the case that would ultimately align the jury against the FTX founder. “As a prosecutor in a fraud case, that can be really important for telling the story and grabbing the jury’s attention,” she said.