The star witness in the government’s case against former FTX chief Sam Bankman-Fried said in court that she was “directed” to commit fraud at the cryptocurrency exchange company.
Bankman-Fried’s ex-girlfriend, former FTX executive Caroline Ellison, testified she and others joined the “ambitious” 31-year-old in defrauding customers, investors and lenders.
Asked by Danielle Sassoon, assistant U.S. attorney, whether she committed a crime, Ellison responded in court Tuesday, “Yes, we did,” adding “I mean Sam and I and others.”
“Sam directed me to commit these crimes,” Ellison said. He “directed us to take customer money to pay loans.”
Reports indicate that Ellison’s testimony was barely 10 minutes before lunch break but that the explosive information she shared was pivotal in the case.
According to CNBC:
Ellison, who ran Alameda Research, pleaded guilty in December to two counts of wire fraud, two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit commodities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Part of the 28-year-old’s plea deal with the government has involved cooperating with the prosecution’s case against Bankman-Fried.
“He was the one who set up these systems that allowed Alameda to take the money and he was the one who directed us to take customer money to repay our loans,” Ellison said.
The 28-year-old noted that her former boyfriend was “very ambitious,” even allegedly having presidential ambitions as well as donating $10 million to President Joe Biden’s campaign. Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty to two counts of fraud and five counts of conspiracy. If found guilty, he could spend the rest of his life behind bars.
“He said he thought it was very effective that you could get very high returns in terms of influence by spending relatively small amounts of money,” she said.
Ex-girlfriend Caroline Ellison says FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried directed her to commit crimes.
Sam Bankman-Fried had ambitions to be President of the United States as per testimony from Caroline Ellison.#SamBankmanFried #CarolineEllison #FTX #CryptoNews #CryptoX pic.twitter.com/5LuSAUJB5B
— cryptomigo (@cryptomigo21) October 11, 2023
“Ellison said Alameda took several billion dollars from FTX customers and that Bankman-Fried had not only set up a system to steal the funds, but also directed Ellison and others to use customer funds to repay loans in the ballpark of $10 billion,” CNBC reported.
“We ultimately took around $14 billion, some of which we were able to pay back,” she told the court. “I sent balance sheets to lenders at the direction of Sam that incorrectly stated Alameda’s assets and liabilities.”
Another problem Ellison highlighted was the roughly $5 billion in personal loans that Alameda gave to insiders, including a $35 million loan to former top FTX executive Ryan Salame that went to donations for Republican political candidates. Ellison said she learned of the loans when she was preparing Alameda’s balance sheets.
Ellison said she was concerned about the loans because they were going to really “illiquid things like early-stage companies.” Due to the structure of the loans, they could be called at any time, creating the risk that Alameda would be pushed into bankruptcy.
“Sam directed us to borrow as much money as we could at whatever terms we could,” Ellison said.
“He was the person I officially reported to, he owns the company, and he was the one who set my compensation and had the ability to fire me if he wanted,” she testified.
Mark Cohen, Bankman-Fried’s attorney, said “Sam didn’t intend to defraud anyone.”
“He had wealth, he had power, he had influence, but all of that was built on lies,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Thane Rehn reportedly said.