Sam Bankman-Fried’s reported ex-girlfriend was likely among the first people to turn on him and help prosecutors build their fast-moving fraud case in the epic, $8 billion-plus collapse of his FTX cryptocurrency exchange, a former US government lawyer said Wednesday,
Caroline Ellison, 28, is a key figure in the case as she was at one time CEO of the Alameda Research hedge fund — which authorities claim received billions of dollars that Bankman-Fried, 30, diverted from FTX.
“She would have among the greatest incentives to cooperate, as it was seeming likely that in his effort to exculpate himself, Bankman-Fried would try to finger her,” former Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer Howard Fischer told The Post.
Fischer said “the speed of the indictment and the breadth of the charges” against Bankman-Fried meant “someone relatively senior is cooperating with the federal authorities in exchange for leniency for their own potential misconduct.”
“It is possible Bankman-Fried’s publicity tour, in which he repeatedly disclaimed either knowledge of — or responsibility for — mishandling or theft of customer assets, spurred senior officers to fear that he would specifically blame them,” he said.
“Often, the first to the table gets the most lenient treatment, so it is smart to turn before others have the chance to.”
Earlier this month, an unconfirmed sighting of Ellison in a Lower Manhattan coffee shop sparked speculation she was in the Big Apple to meet with law enforcement officials.
Manhattan US Attorney Damian Williams revealed Tuesday some of Bankman-Fried’s alleged accomplices had flipped on him, saying: “To anyone who participated in wrongdoing at FTX or Alameda Research and who has not yet come forward, I would strongly encourage you to come see us before we come to you.”
But when asked who was cooperating in the ongoing probe, William said, “I’m not at liberty to say who’s come in.”
Bankman-Fried was arrested Monday in the Bahamas on an eight-count indictment accusing him of defrauding FTX customers and using Alameda funds to illegally make campaign contributions to both Democratic and Republican politicians.
The shaggy-haired, onetime billionaire has vowed to fight extradition and is being held in a rat and maggot-infested jail that a former warden has called “not fit for humanity.”
Former federal prosecutor Duncan Levin told The Post the speed with which prosecutors secured Bankman-Fried’s indictment Friday — less than a month after FTX went bust — suggested they had been able to build a case our of financial records.
“Usually, white-collar cases of this magnitude are under investigation for months, if not years, and then cooperators are used to build a case from the ground-up,” he said. “It’s unlikely the government even had time to develop any cooperator testimony. The government is certainly basing its case on a torrent of bank and other financial records.”
Bankman-Fried defense lawyer Mark Cohen has said his client was “reviewing the charges with his legal team and considering all of his legal options.”
Ellison’s lawyer, Stephanie Avakian, didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
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