How Bankman-Fried’s $250M Bail Compares to Historical Financial Fraudsters

Bernie Madoff was freed on $10 million bail in 2008 before being sentenced to 150 years in prison for running a massive Ponzi scheme

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FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried | Blockworks exclusive art by Axel Rangel modified by Blockworks

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The bail terms for Sam Bankman-Fried were not exactly unprecedented, but were much higher than the one received by the man who perhaps ran the most well-known financial scheme in history. 

The FTX founder faces charges including wire fraud, money laundering and violating campaign finance laws. He was set to be released on $250 million bond after appearing in Manhattan federal court Thursday, the New York Post reported. He was to stay under house arrest at his parents’ home in California.   

The bond was secured by equity in Bankman-Fried’s family home, as well as by the signatures of his parents and two other individuals with “considerable” assets, according to CNBC.

Some have compared Bankman-Fried to Bernie Madoff, who was released on a $10 million bail in 2008 after authorities said he had confessed to a $50 billion Ponzi scheme. The bail amount was secured by various family homes held in his wife’s name, according to The New York Times. 

“Like Madoff, FTX’s Bankman-Fried proved adept at using his pedigree and connections to seduce investors, unbeknownst to them, into participating in one of the more high-profile schemes in modern times,” Bill Herrmann, co-founder of fund manager Wilshire Phoenix, told Blockworks in an email.

Madoff was ultimately sentenced to 150 years in federal prison, where he died in April 2021 at the age of 82. 

Seth Taube, a former federal prosecutor and ex-SEC official, previously told Blockworks that if convicted, Bankman-Fried could receive a Madoff-like sentence.

“If he cooperates, he may get out before he needs a cane,” Taube added.

Though Bankman-Fried’s bail amount far exceeds Madoff’s, it is not the highest bail of all time.

Chart by David Canellis

The bail of Michael Milken — an executive at Drexel Burnham Lambert charged with racketeering and securities fraud in 1989 — was also set at $250 million, which is worth about $570 million today when adjusted for inflation. He pleaded guilty the following year to six felony counts and was sentenced to $600 million in fines and 10 years in prison.

That of Robert Durst, who was convicted of murder last year, was initially set at $3 billion in 2003 after he was acquitted of a murder charge. 

Durst remained in custody on one charge of bond jumping and two of tampering with evidence after State District Judge Susan Criss, set his bail at $1 billion and added a $2 billion bond. A Texas appeals court later lowered the bail to $450,000.

Like Madoff, the bail of Jordan Belfort, the stockbroker portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the 2013 firm The Wolf of Wall Street, was set at $10 million. Belfort pleaded guilty to fraud and served 22 months in prison after receiving a four-year sentence.


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