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Prosecutors Want More Restrictions on FTX Founder Sam Bankman-Fried After New Email Made Public

SBK message to witness

Fallen FTX founder Sam-Bankman Fried, seen on the left entering federal court in Manhattan, sent the company’s general counsel the message on the right. Prosecutors call it a possible attempt to influence a witness. (SBF image via AP Photo/Craig Ruttle; message via DOJ)

Embattled FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried’s encrypted message asking the company’s general counsel to “vet things with each other” as he awaits his fraud trial was released by federal prosecutors on Monday.

“I know it’s been a while since we’ve talked,” the mogul, widely known by his initials SBF, wrote in the Signal message. “And I know things have ended up on the wrong foot.”

In December, federal prosecutors hit Bankman-Fried with an eight-count indictment alleging wire fraud, conspiracy and campaign finance violations. The Securities and Exchange Commission likewise accused Bankman-Fried of raising more than $1.8 billion from FTX investors, while allegedly diverting his customers’ money to Alameda Research LLC, his privately-held crypto hedge fund.

It was a little more than a month later, on Jan. 15, that prosecutors say that Bankman-Fried reached out to FTX’s current general counsel, whose name is shielded in court papers. Ryne Miller, however, currently holds that position.

“I would really love to reconnect and see if there’s a way for us to have a constructive relationship, use each other as resources when possible, or at least vet things with each other,” Bankman-Fried wrote in the message. “I’d love to get on a phone call sometime soon and chat.”

The existence of the message became publicly known over the weekend, but Senior U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan ordered the disclosure of the message itself on Monday. Prosecutors featured it as an exhibit to their request to modify Bankman-Fried’s bond, including through a no-contact order.

“The first proposed condition — that the defendant shall not contact or communicate with current or former employees of FTX or Alameda (other than immediate family members), except in the presence of counsel or as approved by the Government — is necessary to prevent witness tampering and obstruction of justice,” their mostly-redacted six-page letter states.

After prosecutors first disclosed the communication, Bankman-Fried’s defense attorney Mark Cohen said he objected to the “nature and tone” of the government’s request, which he characterized as an attempt to dirty up his client.

“In an apparent effort to portray our client in the worst possible light, the Government’s letter makes it appear as if it were prompted by exigent circumstances that required it to file on a Friday night and seek these new bail conditions,” the defense letter said.

Prosecutors rejected Bankman-Fried’s claim that he was simply offering to assist in FTX’s bankruptcy process.

“The defense argues that these messages were merely an ‘innocuous attempt to offer assistance in FTX’s bankruptcy process,’ similar to the defendant’s earlier outreach to John Ray, the CEO of the FTX Debtor entities,” the letter states. “Putting aside that the defendant is trying to participate in FTX asset recovery despite being charged with crimes related to the misuse of FTX customer assets that precipitated FTX’s bankruptcy, the defendant’s messages to Witness1 cannot bear his interpretation.”

The remainder of the government’s latest letter appears to be entirely redacted.

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."