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Caroline Ellison, SBF ex-girlfriend, helped put FTX founder in prison

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Caroline Ellison, former chief executive officer of Alameda Research LLC, center, arrives at court in New York, US, on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023. 

Yuki Iwamura | Bloomberg | Getty Images

In sentencing FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried to a 25-year prison sentence on Thursday, Judge Lewis Kaplan cited testimony from Caroline Ellison, an ex-girlfriend of the defendant and early recruit into his crypto enterprise.

“I keep coming back to Ms. Ellison’s testimony that he knew it was wrong,” Kaplan said at the sentencing hearing in downtown Manhattan. “He knew it was criminal.”

Ellison was the star witness for the Department of Justice in its prosecution of Bankman-Fried. She agreed to a plea deal in December 2022, a month after FTX spiraled into bankruptcy.

As part of her testimony at the criminal trial late last year, Ellison supplied the government and the jury with text messages, documents and secret recordings that ultimately helped lead to Bankman-Fried’s conviction on all seven charges against him.

Sam Bankman-Fried's family on sentencing: We are heartbroken and will continue to fight for our son

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement after the sentencing on Thursday that Bankman-Fried’s “deliberate and ongoing lies demonstrated a brazen disregard for his customers’ expectations and disrespect for the rule of law, all so that he could secretly use his customers’ money to expand his own power and influence.”

Ellison, who ran FTX’s sister hedge fund Alameda Research, pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud, two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit commodities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Though Ellison faces similar sentencing guidelines to Bankman-Fried, she’s expected to receive a far more lenient sentence due to her role as a cooperating witness.

Caroline Ellison is questioned as Sam Bankman-Fried watches during his fraud trial before U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan over the collapse of FTX, the bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange, at Federal Court in New York City, October 11, 2023 in this courtroom sketch.

Jane Rosenberg | Reuters

Ellison’s complicated ties to SBF

Ellison jumped into Bankman-Fried’s crypto orbit in 2017.

She’d been working as a trader at Jane Street, where Bankman-Fried got his start in finance. Bankman-Fried had reportedly convinced the Stanford graduate to ditch her Wall Street gig and join Alameda, when the hedge fund was still in its original Bay Area office.

Ellison spent years as Bankman-Fried’s on-again, off-again girlfriend and, at times, his roommate. She followed Bankman-Fried from California to Hong Kong and ultimately to the Bahamas, as Bankman-Fried repeatedly shifted headquarters for his crypto companies.

Michael Lewis wrote about Ellison in his book, “Going Infinite,” which covered Bankman-Fried’s rise and fall. In 2021, Ellison was promoted to CEO of Alameda, a job for which, according to Lewis’s reporting, neither Ellison nor Bankman-Fried found her particularly well suited.

“Caroline sensed that, even as Sam promoted…

Read More: Caroline Ellison, SBF ex-girlfriend, helped put FTX founder in prison

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