DOJ Claims Sam Bankman-Fried Tried to Influence Witness Testimony, Asks for Communications Ban

A court document filed by prosecutors on Friday alleges Bankman-Fried messaged FTX US General Counsel Ryne Miller on Signal, asking to reconnect and “vet things with each other.”

AccessTimeIconJan 28, 2023 at 2:41 a.m. UTC
Updated Jan 30, 2023 at 3:16 p.m. UTC
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Federal prosecutors wrote a letter to U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan on Friday, requesting that he modify the conditions of Sam Bankman-Fried’s bail to include a ban on private communications with current and former employees of FTX and Alameda Research.

The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) request comes after Bankman-Fried reached out to at least one FTX employee – identified as Ryne Miller, the current general counsel for FTX US – to allegedly attempt to influence his future witness testimony.

“I would really love to reconnect and see if there’s a way for us to have a constructive relationship, use each other as resources when possible, or at least vet things with each other,” the DOJ’s letter quotes Bankman-Fried as saying to Miller.

Prosecutors also requested that Judge Kaplan prevent Bankman-Fried from using “any encrypted or ephemeral call or messaging application, including but not limited to Signal.”

In their letter to the court, prosecutors said Bankman-Fried used the Signal app to reach out to Miller, as well as other current and former FTX employees – which prosecutors described as “the very people who until recently were the defendant’s underlings whom he supervised and financially compensated, and who are therefore most vulnerable to intimidation” – asking to talk.

Prosecutors said Bankman-Fried’s message was a thinly veiled attempt to “influence [Miller’s] potential testimony,” which they described as “particularly concerning” given Miller’s first-hand knowledge of Bankman-Fried’s conduct around the time of FTX’s collapse.

“[Miller] participated in Signal and Slack communications with the defendant and a small group of company insiders during the relevant events of November 2022,” prosecutors said. “In those messages, among other things, [Bankman-Fried] gave instructions for liquidating Alameda’s investments to satisfy FTX customer withdrawals, and indicated that he transferred approximately $45 million of Alameda's funds to FTX US to fill an apparent hole in FTX US’ balance sheet.”

The prosecutors’ claim, if true, would refute Bankman-Fried’s continued declarations on social media and elsewhere that FTX US was solvent at the time the rest of his empire collapsed.

Prosecutors also told Judge Kaplan that testimony from former Alameda Research CEO Caroline Ellison revealed that Bankman-Fried purposely used auto-deleting Slack and Signal messages for work communications because he knew that “many legal cases turn on documentation and it is more difficult to build a legal case if information is not written down or preserved.”

“In fact, the autodeletion of FTX and Alameda’s Slack and Signal communications has impeded the Government’s investigation; potential witnesses have described relevant and incriminating conversations with the defendant that took place on Slack and Signal that have already been autodeleted because of settings implemented at the defendant’s direction,” prosecutors said.


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Cheyenne Ligon

Cheyenne Ligon is a CoinDesk news reporter with a focus on crypto regulation and policy. She has no significant crypto holdings.

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