In their opening statements to a newly sworn-in jury in Manhattan federal court on October 4, lawyers laid out previews of their cases, offering two divergent narratives for the collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto empire.
Assistant US Attorney Thane Rehn painted a picture of a villainous, greedy businessman whose boundless appetite for wealth and power led him to steal billions of dollars in customer funds.
“He had wealth, he had power, he had influence,” Rehn said. “But all of that — all of it — was built on lies.”
Rehn reiterated the government’s accusations that Bankman-Fried used his crypto exchange, FTX, as his own personal piggy bank, using the money he took from customers to enrich himself and his family, buy luxury beachfront property in the Bahamas and funnel millions into US political campaigns.
“This man,” Rehn said, pointing to Bankman-Fried a few feet away, “stole billions of dollars from thousands of people.” He repeatedly underscored a central argument: that Bankman-Fried stole, enlisted others to help him steal, lied about stealing, and continued to lie to try as he sought to cover up his crimes.
As Rehn spoke, Bankman-Fried, dressed in a suit and tie and flanked by his attorneys, trained his eyes on a laptop, expressing no reaction to the prosecutor’s allegations. But as his own lawyer, Mark Cohen, stepped up to speak, Bankman-Fried’s demeanor softened and his focus shifted to the jury box.