SBF’s New Judge Already Sent One Crypto Fraudster to Prison

Disgraced crypto entrepreneur Sam Bankman-Fried’s previous judge recused herself over potential conflicts of interest


Exclusive art by Axel Rangel modified by Blockworks


Former crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried will face court over allegations including fraud and conspiracy in the first week of January, but he’ll be addressing a different judge.

Bankman-Fried’s case was initially assigned to 54-year-old district judge Ronnie Abrams. However, Abrams recused herself on Friday due to her husband’s partner role at law firm Davis Polk and Wardwell, which had advised Bankman-Fried’s FTX last year.

Replacing Abrams is Lewis Kaplan, who at 78 has garnered a “no-nonsense” reputation, per The Guardian. Kaplan was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1994 and has overseen high profile cases involving Donald Trump, Britain’s Prince Andrew and Kevin Spacey.

Kaplan is also familiar with crypto fraud. He’s credited with sentencing the first ever bitcoin-related federal securities fraud case in 2016, handing down 18 months’ prison (and three years supervised release) to Bitcoin Savings & Trust’s Trendon Shavers for running a Ponzi scheme.

As for Bankman-Fried, he denied fraud allegations to the media in the leadup to his arrest. He’s expected to lodge a plea before Kaplan next week.

Ex-CEO of Alameda Research Caroline Ellison and former chief technology officer Gary Wang have already pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to the exchange’s collapse.

Ellison pleaded guilty to seven charges including two counts of wire fraud, two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit commodities fraud, securities fraud and money laundering, court documents show. She faces up to 110 years in prison.

Wang similarly pleaded guilty to four charges including conspiracy to commit securities fraud, commodities fraud and wire fraud. He faces up to 50 years in prison. Both executives have been released on $250,000 bond.

Bankman-Fried, on the other hand, is currently out on a record $250 million bond secured by his parents’ California home, where he’s under house arrest throughout the trial.

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