DOJ says Bankman-Fried attempted to influence witness

DOJ says Bankman-Fried attempted to influence witness

By Benson Toti - min read
  • US prosecutors argue that Sam Bankman-Fried tried to influence Ryne Miller, the General Counsel of FTX US.
  • The former FTX CEO allegedly contacted Miller through encrypted instant messaging platform Signal and via email.
  • The prosecution seeks to have SBF banned from using Signal or other apps and not to contact any former employees of FTX and Alameda.

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has asked for a communications ban on Sam Bankman-Fried over allegations that the former FTX CEO had contacted a witness in an attempt to influence their testimony.

In a court document federal prosecutors filed on Friday, the DOJ has applied to have the bail conditions against Bankman-Fried be modified to ensure he doesn’t contact any prospective witnesses.

Specifically, the prosecution requested US District Court Judge Lweis Kaplan to impose conditions restricting Bankman-Fried’s communication.

SBF tried to “influence” witness testimony, says DOJ

The DOJ claims that Bankman-Fried tried to influence Ryne Miller, the General Counsel of FTX US, through communication sent on 15 January, 2023. 

Miller is designated as potentially Witness-1, and according to the government, SBF emailed Miller and also contacted him via Signal with a message that suggests he sought to influence the witness’s testimony.

Part of the message sent to the witness reads: “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.

In the document, submitted by United States Attorney Southern District of New York Damian Williams, the prosecution argues:

The defendant’s request to “vet things with each other” is suggestive of an effort to influence Witness-1’s potential testimony, and the appeal for a “constructive relationship” likewise implies that Witness-1 should align with the defendant. This is particularly concerning given that the defendant is aware that Witness-1 has information that would tend to inculpate the defendant,”

Prosecutors also allege that Bankman-Fried has contacted other FTX employees, who might be witnesses in the trial.

According to the filing, SBF should be barred from contacting current or former employees of FTX and Alameda, unless with counsel. And while he can communicate with immediate family members, federal prosecutors want the ex-FTX honcho banned from using encrypted messaging apps – including Signal.

It’s alleged the defendant can use Signal or similar encrypted messaging apps in a way that helps then elude pretrial oversight. Being able to evade bail restrictions can also see the defendant succeed in obstructing justice, the DOJ added.

Bankman-Fried is facing multiple charges related to the collapse of the FTX crypto exchange. He is out on a $250 million bail awaiting trial.