Sam Bankman-Fried, co-founder of FTX, gave his first media interview since being locked up. He says that he has “become good at faking” that he is doing well. Trading is apparently in his blood, because Bankman-Fried started trading rice in prison.

From Wall Street to jail, from billionaire to rice farmer

In his first face-to-face conversation with the media since his incarceration at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn in August 2023, Bankman-Fried spoke with William Cohan of Puck News. The interview was published on May 9 and Bankman-Fried’s mother Barbara Fried was involved in organizing it.

The former head of FTX is fed vegan meals that fellow inmates say “literally smell like shit.” That is why he lives on beans and rice – the latter has become “one of the common means of exchange within the walls of MDC.”

The former employee of trading house Jane Street Capital and co-founder of trading firm Alameda Research reportedly joked about how the arbitrage opportunities in prison are much better than in his previous life as a high-frequency trader.

Bankman-Fried had become “considerably thinner,” about 25 pounds lighter, and was “less chubby, less manic, less wobbly,” without bags under his eyes, Puck reports.

He looked at Cohan “pretty much the entire time” during the interview, something he “rarely did before his arrest,” but the incarcerated founder admitted that he has “got good at faking” that he is doing well.

Bankman-Fried sits with 35 other male inmates – half of whom are reportedly murderers working with the government – ​​in a large open dormitory-like room in a part of the MDC mainly intended for female inmates.

He is reportedly extremely bored with only four TVs and a tablet with no internet connection to keep him entertained. He uses the tablet to play games.

He is not worried about his safety, but sleeps poorly because other inmates wake him up with questions about his bags of rice that they want to use for bartering.

SBF considers itself the “scapegoat”

Last month, Bankman-Fried said he would appeal his conviction for fraud and money laundering, something his lawyers said they would do when he was found guilty in November. He speaks with his new attorney “almost every weekday for about an hour,” and his approved prescription medication allows him to “think clearly,” Cohan said.

The former exchange operator told Cohan that he was “set up to be the scapegoat” for FTX’s collapse. He claimed his only misstep was negligence, leaving FTX vulnerable to “a bank run and the devious actions of its competitors.” He added that a reasonable penalty would be civil, not criminal penalties.

Cohan noted that Bankman-Fried “still does not believe he committed a crime” and portrays himself as an innocent participant who could not adequately negotiate with prosecutors. He was also “less than apologetic” about the approximately $8 billion in customer funds that were lost.

Bankman-Fried claims that the army of lawyers he turned FTX over to held him responsible for the company’s collapse. The former CEO believed that had he remained at the helm of FTX, the company would not have gone bankrupt but become a thriving company worth $80 billion.

In his defense, he said he should have looked for someone other than his ex-girlfriend Caroline Ellison to lead Alameda. This after his lawyers convinced him that it was a conflict of interest to run both the FTX and Alameda trading markets. He should have, he said, either listened to his lawyers and found someone else or simply ignored them and continued to run both companies.

Bankman-Fried has asked to remain in the MDC until he appeals in July. However, he could be transferred at any time to a prison closer to his parents – on the other side of the country in California. If that happens, he will reportedly be transported by prison bus, which could take up to four months as it travels across the United States, picking up and dropping off prisoners along the way.


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