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Ex-Gangster Reveals Harsh Reality for FTX Founder Sam Bankman-Fried in Prison

4 mins
By Zerelik Maciej
Translated Harsh Notariya
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In Brief

  • Ex-FTX CEO, Sam Bankman-Fried, found guilty on all seven counts in his fraud trial, might potentially face decades in prison.
  • Despite having no previous legal issues, Bankman-Fried's sentence may not be reduced due to FTX's billion-dollar loss.
  • Bankman-Fried's physical health and vegan diet may pose challenges in prison, where he's already attracting unwanted attention.
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YouTuber Tiffany Fong has interviewed Sam Bankman-Fried’s cellmate. Bankman-Fried, the former head of the FTX cryptocurrency exchange, was placed in Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) after violating the terms of his house arrest. There, he found himself sharing a cell with a man named Gene Borrello, a former gangster who was allowed to leave prison in exchange for valuable information about his gang. 

Judging by Borrello’s words, Sam’s future prospects in prison are not good. He was described as a shy man in poor health.

Following his fraud trial, a jury found him guilty on all seven counts. Sentencing is scheduled for March 28, 2024, with Bankman-Fried facing at several decades behind bars.

Although the maximum sentence for Bankman-Fried is 115 years, it is unlikely that he would be sentenced to that long. However, he himself had no previous problems with the law, which should have resulted in a reduced sentence.

At the same time, the FTX and Alameda Research venture lost billions of dollars to investors, which is an extremely large sum. Therefore, experts really expect a sentence of several dozen years in prison.

How Are Prisoners Treating Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried?

Borrello spent some time with Bankman-Fried before the court hearing. Enough for the ex-con to conclude that Bankman-Fried would have a very difficult time in prison. One reason is that his physical health is not the best. Here’s what Borrello said:

“He has the body of an 80-year-old man. There is no form, you know?”

Photo of Sam Bankman-Fried's cellmate Gene Borrello. Source: X (Twitter)
Photo of Sam Bankman-Fried’s cellmate Gene Borrello. Source: X (Twitter)

However, he found something for himself during his stay in prison. According to The Wall Street Journal, Bankman-Fried took up selling fish in prison. Mackerel is the main barter exchange tool and the most popular commodity in American prisons after the introduction of the ban on tobacco products.

As sources noted, a pack of mackerel costs $1.30 at the aforementioned MDC prison in Brooklyn. Additionally, Sam used four packs of this product to cut his hair before a court hearing.

The former FTX boss never really looked athletic. He also constantly needs special medications to combat his mental health problems. In addition, Bankman-Fried follows a vegan diet, which is extremely difficult within prison walls.

The news of Sam’s arrival at MDC quickly spread among the inmates – everyone realized that the billionaire had money. Some of them began demanding money from Bankman-Fried, Borello notes. Another inmate wanted Bankman-Fried to feel threatened and asked for protection.

Read more: FTX Collapse Explained: How Sam Bankman-Fried’s Empire Fell

Advice From Fellow Inmate

However, Borrello defended Bankman-Fried and advised him not to fall for extortion from anyone in their prison cell. Prison records even show that Borrello got into a fight with another inmate, Kevin Cruz, and both were sent to solitary confinement as punishment.

Incident Report Shows Borrelo Got Into a Fight to Defend Sam Bankman-Fried. Source: X (Twitter)
Incident Report Shows Borrello Got Into a Fight to Defend Sam Bankman-Fried. Source: X (Twitter)

Borrello’s advice was indeed sound. The fact is that Bankman-Fried was placed in a separate prison block with special conditions and a distinguished audience. Mainly, wealthy prisoners, informants, former government officials, and other “harmless” categories of people were held there.

However, even in such a special unit, Bankman-Fried clearly didn’t feel very comfortable. Here is a statement about it:

“Sam talks with his head down, is shy and often gets nervous.”

Bankman-Fried did not realize the full extent of his problems upon arrival at prison. According to Borrello, Bankman-Fried believed he would be released.

“We looked at him like he was crazy. I tried to explain to him that he might never be released.”

Another problem for Bankman-Fried is the judge presiding over his case, Lewis Kaplan. He is also known as “the toughest in the southern district.”

A jury has already found Bankman-Fried guilty on all counts. However, analysts believe Kaplan could give him a sentence much longer than the previously estimated maximum sentence of 115 years in prison.

When asked by prisoners about his life, the former billionaire said he drove a 2020 Toyota Camry and wore an Apple Watch. Borrello recalls that it was a real eye-opener for his cellmates.

“My friends and I said, ‘So why the fuck did you steal the money? To look at them?”

Borrello believes the excessively harsh punishment for Bankman-Fried is “completely absurd” because the former FTX CEO does not deserve hundreds of years in prison. Nevertheless, an army of prosecutors and lawyers want to make a career out of a high-profile case, so Sam shouldn’t expect leniency, he claims.

Prison Sentence for Former Binance Boss Changpeng Zhao?

In any case, he is certainly not as lucky as former Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao. Zhao was released on $175 million bail, although he has not been permitted to leave the United States before sentencing on Feb. 23, 2024.

In addition, Zhao faces up to a year and a half in prison, although the prosecutor’s office recently talked about increasing the sentence to 10 years.

The prison sentence appears to be a major blow to Sam Bankman-Fried. However, the situation of the FTX co-founder is unlikely to improve. At the end of March, the judge will announce the verdict in the case of the former entrepreneur – and it will probably not be too lenient.

Read more: Binance Review 2024: Is It the Right Crypto Exchange for You?

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Harsh Notariya
Harsh Notariya is a journalist and crypto expert that excels in delivering the latest Web3 and Crypto News. Previously, as a Growth Marketer at Sporty and a Community Consultant at Totality Corp, he significantly boosted community engagement and followers. Harsh also crafted engaging content for top crypto influencer Shivam Chhuneja, blending meme references for an educational yet fun experience. His versatile skills make him a notable figure in crypto journalism.