Sam Bankman-Fried, former FTX CEO, faces eight accusations and could get 115 years in jail, but there is a "lot to play out" until he gets a final sentence over the coming months or even years, legal commentators told Cointelegraph.
"It is difficult to say at this stage what the likely outcome will be, but the stakes are very high indeed. Sentences in major fraud cases can vary, with Bernie Madoff receiving a 150 year sentence in 2009, whilst in the Enron case a few years earlier the sentences handed out to the prime movers were much lower," stated Richard Cannon, Partner at Stokoe Partnership Solicitors.
As Bernie Madoff, an American financier who defrauded thousands of investors of tens of billions of dollars over a period of 17 years, SBF used its credibility to cover FTX's problems and the flow of money to Alameda's Research. Madoff's scheme also collapsed in a bear market, and he was convicted and ordered to pay $170 billion to victims in 2009, however only $4 billion was paid to victims 13 years later, according to the Madoff Victims Fund.
In Enron's case, executives of the disgraced energy company were convicted years after the scandal. Kenneth Lay, one of the company's founders, died before he was sentenced to 45 years in prison, while Jeffrey Skilling, Enron's former CEO, served 12 years of his 24-year sentence.
As for SBF, accusations include conspiracy to commit wire fraud on customers and lenders, securities fraud, commodities fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to defraud the United States and violate the campaign finance law.
"Given the unprecedented amount of money at issue here SBF will be looking at a high guideline range [for a sentence]. However, there are mitigating factors – does he waive extradition, does he cooperate, does he help locate victim funds. There is a still a lot to play out here over the coming months and even years," noted Ari Redbord, the head of Legal and Government Affairs at TRM Labs, a blockchain intelligence company.
The extradition process from the Bahamas to the United States is the next step in this legal battle. "The defendant has not waived his right to challenge extradition and a hearing is set for February. Between now and then things can change especially when a defendant remains detained and may want to move the process along. That could be SBF waives extradition or he could contest it at the hearing," commented Redbord.
The former FTX CEO has reportedly hired Mark Cohen, a former federal prosecutor, to act as his defense attorney. As reported by Cointelegraph, Cohen is a co-founder of the law firm Cohen & Gresser, and was a member of the defense team in the high-profile case of Ghislaine Maxwell, sentenced to 20 years in prison for child sex trafficking.