© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former FTX Chief Executive Sam Bankman-Fried, who faces fraud charges over the collapse of the bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange, arrives at the Manhattan federal court in New York City, U.S. March 30, 2023. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli
By Luc Cohen
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Prosecutors urged a Manhattan federal court judge on Monday to deny a request by FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried to dismiss criminal charges accusing him of stealing billions of dollars from customers to plug losses at his hedge fund.
Bankman-Fried, the 31-year-old former cryptocurrency billionaire, has pleaded not guilty to 13 counts of fraud, conspiracy, making illegal campaign contributions and foreign bribery.
On May 8, Bankman-Fried urged U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan to dismiss most of the counts, saying prosecutors charged him in a “rush to judgment” following a broad crash in 2022 where several prominent crypto companies went bankrupt, including his own Alameda Research.
In a filing late Monday, prosecutors described motions to dismiss the charges as “meritless”, rebutting Bankman-Fried’s argument that the indictment’s allegations were insufficient and legally defective.
“The Indictment sufficiently alleges that the defendant and his co-conspirators made false and misleading representations to lenders relating to Alameda’s financial condition. No more specificity is required,” prosecutors wrote.
Kaplan will hear oral arguments on June 15.
Bankman-Fried has said FTX’s risk management was subpar, but has denied stealing funds. He has sought to distance himself from the collapse of Alameda, the crypto-focused hedge fund he owned. Its former chief executive, Caroline Ellison, has pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
He has also argued that some of the fraud charges he faces were based on a theory that the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated on May 11.
The theory, known as “right to control,” centers around depriving a victim of economically-valuable information rather than tangible property.
The Supreme Court called the theory “inconsistent” with how federal fraud laws had been written and historically applied, when it overturned a bid-rigging conviction of a Buffalo, New York, construction executive, earlier this month.
Legal experts have said Bankman-Fried faces long odds of getting the charges tossed, because prosecutors can point to tangible money that his customers lost.
Bankman-Fried rode a boom in digital currency values to a $26 billion net worth, and became an influential political and philanthropic donor, before FTX sought Chapter 11 protection in November.
Since his December extradition from the Bahamas, Bankman-Fried has largely been under house arrest at his parents’ Palo Alto, California, home on $250 million bond. His trial is scheduled for Oct. 2.