By Luc Cohen
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A U.S. judge is expected on Friday to consider what restrictions Sam Bankman-Fried should face while free on bail, and whether the FTX cryptocurrency exchange founder’s Oct. 2 fraud trial should be pushed back.
Bankman-Fried is fighting to stay out of jail after U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan raised concerns last month that the 31-year-old former billionaire wunderkind was testing the limits of his $250 million bail package by communicating in ways that could not be monitored.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have charged Bankman-Fried with perpetrating an “epic” fraud by stealing billions of dollars in FTX customer funds to plug losses at Alameda Research, his hedge fund.
They have also said Bankman-Fried made tens of millions of dollars in illegal political donations to buy influence in Washington, D.C.
Late last month, prosecutors added new fraud and conspiracy charges against Bankman-Fried over the November collapse of his now-bankrupt exchange, meaning he now faces 12 charges. He had pleaded not guilty to the original eight charges in January.
In a letter to Kaplan on Wednesday, Bankman-Fried’s lawyers said they may need more time than expected to review the evidence and prepare a defense in light of the new charges.
They also said prosecutors had not yet handed over evidence from electronic devices belonging to former Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison and former FTX technology chief Gary Wang.
Ellison and Wang, once among Bankman-Fried’s closest associates, have pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the government.
Last Friday, prosecutors proposed letting Bankman-Fried have a flip phone with no internet capability and a basic laptop with limited functions, but be forbidden from using other electronic communication devices while on bail.
Prosecutors, defense lawyers and Kaplan began revisiting Bankman-Fried’s bail conditions after the government said he sought to contact FTX Chief Executive John Ray and an in-house lawyer in what prosecutors described as a possible attempt to tamper with witnesses.
Defense lawyers said Bankman-Fried was trying to help, not interfere.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)