US Prosecutors Ask Judge to 'Prohibit' Bankman-Fried From Using Phones, Internet

Sam Bankman-Fried had allegedly used a VPN to watch football games.

AccessTimeIconFeb 15, 2023 at 10:12 p.m. UTC
Updated Feb 16, 2023 at 3:38 p.m. UTC

Federal prosecutors asked a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to modify the terms of FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried's release on bond to ban him from using cellphones or the internet except under very specific conditions.

The request comes days after prosecutors alleged that Bankman-Fried used a virtual private network at least twice, supposedly to watch National Football League playoff games. It's a sharp escalation of previous requests, which mainly saw prosecutors ask that Bankman-Fried only be banned from using encrypted or ephemeral messaging applications.

"Within the span of a month, the defendant has used at least two methods of encryption in a manner that warrant modification to his bail conditions. His behavior shows that the existing conditions leave too much room for circumvention of restrictions aimed at preventing inappropriate conduct, including contacting witnesses and accessing cryptocurrency assets," the filing said Wednesday.

The filing also pointed to Bankman-Fried's "contact with a possible trial witness in January 2023 using Signal" as another cause for concern.

Under the terms of the new proposal, Bankman-Fried would not be allowed to use cellphones, tablets, computers or the internet except to review discovery documents, contact his lawyers through Zoom, email using his Gmail account and be able to call or send SMS messages through his phone.

"The defendant shall be prohibited from using any other cellphone and computer call and messaging applications," the filing said, adding that prosecutors also wanted to install monitoring software on his cellphone and computer.

The Gmail account and phone would likewise be monitored.

"In particular, restrictions on the use of computers, cellphones, and the internet are appropriate when a defendant has attempted to circumvent bail restrictions, attempts to commit obstruction, or may continue the commission of criminal acts," the filing said.

For their part, lawyers for Bankman-Fried proposed much less-onerous restrictions, citing a cybersecurity expert who said VPNs are not ephemeral or encrypted the same way Bankman-Fried's messaging apps are.

The parties will meet in court on Thursday to discuss the various motions.

UPDATE (Feb. 15, 2023, 22:30 UTC): Adds additional detail from the filing.


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Nikhilesh De

Nikhilesh De is CoinDesk's managing editor for global policy and regulation. He owns marginal amounts of bitcoin and ether.