A Manhattan federal judge on Wednesday ordered accused crypto schemer Sam Bankman-Fried not to contact any current or ex-employees of FTX, his former digital-currency company, while he is out on bail in the sprawling fraud case.
Judge Lewis Kaplan issued the order at the request of federal prosecutors and will hear arguments from Bankman-Fried’s attorneys about the restrictions during a hearing on Feb. 7.
In a letter to Kaplan, prosecutors revealed that Bankman-Fried sent a message to FTX’s current general counsel on the encrypted messaging app Signal weeks after he was indicted in Manhattan federal court.
“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,” Bankman-Fried wrote to the employee, according to the filing.
Prosecutors noted the general counsel may be a witness at trial and the message could have been an attempt by Bankman-Fried to influence the person’s testimony.
“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,” their letter states.
Bankman-Fried’s attorneys have suggested the message was a benign communication – an argument rejected by Kaplan.
“The message in its entirety seems to be an invitation for Witness-1 to align his views and recollections with defendant’s version of events and thus make their relationship ‘constructive’,” Kaplan wrote.
“In perhaps more colloquial terms, it appears to have been an effort to have both the defendant and Witness-1 sing out of the same hymn book,” he added.
Bankman-Fried was charged in December in an eight-count indictment for allegedly swindling investors and customers of FTX by diverting funds from the exchange into Alameda, a hedge fund he controlled.
Two of his top employees, Gary Wang and Caroline Ellison, have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with investigators.
Bankman-Fried, a noted Democratic donor, was also charged with campaign finance violations. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.