Sam Bankman-Fried fights through media scrum for first US court appearance

Sam Bankman-Fried, the cryptocurrency exchange founder accused of defrauding investors of billions of dollars, appeared in a federal court in Manhattan for the first time on Tuesday where he plead not guilty to each criminal charge he is facing.

Mr Bankman-Fried was arrested in The Bahamas shortly after his crypto exchange FTX collapsed in November and was eventually extradicted back to the United States. He is currently under house arrest at his parents’ home in Palo Alto, California.

The entrepreneur stands accused of stealing consumer funds from FTX to cover loans taken out by its sister hedge fund and make a range of investments in other ventures and political campaign donations. The charges he is facing could land him in prison for up to 115 years if he is convicted.

It’s been a staggering fall from grace for Mr Bankman-Fried, who was until late last year reported to be one of the wealthiest men in the hemisphere and the increasingly visible face of crypto.

Already, two of Mr Bankman-Fried’s close associates Gary Wang, the co-founder of FTX, and Caroline Ellison, who served as CEO of FTX’s sister hedge fund Alameda Research — have plead guilty to charges fraud charges. Ms Ellison apologised when entering her plea, telling the court she had agreed with Mr Bankman-Fried and others not to expose the true nature of the relationship between FTX and Alameda.

Mr Bankman-Fried had been living and working in The Bahamas at the time of his arrest and initially considered fighting extradition back to the US but ultimately acquiesced. He made his first appearance back on US soil last month, when a judge set his bond at $250m.

Mr Bankman-Fried’s parents, both law professors at Stanford University, co-signed his bond. Mr Bankman-Fried’s attorneys said in a filing on Tuesday in federal court that they have been recieving threats in recent days.

The filing claimed that both Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried “have in recent weeks become the target of intense media scrutiny, harassment, and threats. Among other things, Mr. Bankman-Fried’s parents have received a steady stream of threatening correspondence, including communications expressing a desire that they suffer physical harm.”