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From Stanford Campus to Prison Bars: The Downfall of Crypto Mogul Sam Bankman-Fried

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Sam Bankman-Fried, the creator of FTX, found himself in an unenviable position as he was taken to a New York detention facility last Friday. With his bail revoked, he’s now far from his previous dwelling on house arrest in his parent’s house on the Stanford University campus in California. The difference in accommodations will be profound.

This downfall follows after U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan saw enough evidence to suspect Bankman-Fried’s involvement in witness tampering. Already facing several criminal charges like fraud connected to FTX’s collapse last November, the once-promising crypto prodigy was sent to Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) Brooklyn.

MDC Brooklyn currently holds about 1,600 incarcerated individuals, including high-profile inmates in its history. One such inmate was Ghislaine Maxwell, a convicted sex trafficker and former British socialite. Incidentally, Mark S. Cohen, Bankman Fried’s present lawyer, represented her until she was found guilty of crimes related to late financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Maxwell’s time at MDC Brooklyn was marred by her complaints in November 2021 about the conditions. She spoke to the U.K.’s Daily Mail, mentioning rats in her cell and “creepy” guards that hindered her comfort during showers.

Another notable inmate at MDC Brooklyn was Martin Shkreli, known as “Pharma Bro.” Convicted in 2018 for a multi-million dollar fraud scheme, he once advised to “avoid this place,” reminiscing about an altercation over a computer. On Twitter, Shkreli commented on Bankman-Fried’s situation, saying that MDC Brooklyn “sucks for Sam” and estimating a potential 15 to 30-year incarceration. Shkreli once comforted Terraform Labs co-founder Do Kwon on a podcast, assuring him that “jail is not that bad.”

Unacceptable and inhumane conditions

In 2019, New York Attorney General Leticia James condemned the living conditions at MDC Brooklyn as “unacceptable and inhumane.” She filed a brief in a lawsuit against the Bureau of Prisons concerning a power outage that left inmates freezing.

However, Bankman-Fried might be relocated to Putnam County Correctional Facility before his trial in October, as federal prosecutors hinted at this possibility. An hour and a half north of the courthouse, Putnam County Correctional Facility is a medium-level security facility.

Bankman-Fried’s previous stay at the Bahamas’ Fox Hill prison was no walk in the park either. A 2021 U.S. State Department report described the terrible conditions, including cells without mattresses or toilets, infested with rats, maggots, and insects.

From a Life of Luxury to Jail

Comparatively, the home of Bankman-Fried’s parents must have seemed idyllic. Equipped with luxurious amenities such as expansive windows, bookshelves, a grand piano, and a swimming pool, it was where he stayed after his arraignment.

During this time, requests were made for Bankman-Fried to access media streaming services like Spotify and Netflix, as well as news sites like CoinDesk and Decrypt. Toward the end, his lawyers even sought permission to include “close friends” and “household help” in his guest list, perhaps indicating loneliness and a need for domestic assistance.

MDC Brooklyn’s regulations, as per the BOP’s website, allow inmates to add up to 10 friends or associates to their visiting list, though it’s unclear if Bankman-Fried will face stricter rules. In any case, whatever the amenities he will have there, prison life will be a stark contrast to his prior, highly luxurious life.

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