Jailed SBF swaps California mansion for moldy food and raw sewage

Judge Lewis Kaplan has revoked Sam Bankman-Fried’s (SBF) bail and sent him to jail at Metropolitan Detention Center in New York City. That’s the same jail as Martin Shkreli, the ‘pharma bro’ who illegally raised the price of the life-saving medication Deraprim by 5,000% to price-gouge AIDS patients.

Like Shkreli, criminal prosecutors charged SBF with defrauding investors. Shkreli served more than three years inside the Brooklyn-based federal jail.

Prior to this past weekend, SBF was sitting out his house arrest at his parents’ multi-million dollar house in Palo Alto, California. The court granted him limited liberties like watching Netflix and making phone calls.

He availed himself of those liberties extensively, making over 1,000 phone calls and sending 100 emails, not to mention using VPNs to pseudonymously access the Internet.

Judge Kaplan reasoned that SBF’s various misdeeds — especially using his communication privileges to attempt to influence potential witnesses — warranted jail detention while he awaits trial. Specifically, SBF leaked documents to New York Times reporters in violation of a court order to avoid contact with the press.

SBF indicted for more crimes in jail while awaiting trial

The documents leaked by SBF related to Caroline Ellison, who is set to be a witness at his upcoming trial. It’s a crime to tamper with witnesses in a criminal trial and, unsurprisingly, prosecutors filed a superseding indictment against SBF that added additional charges to his October trial.

SBF has pled not guilty to the various charges filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), and Department of Justice (DoJ). The charges include multiple counts of fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, and violations of US campaign finance laws.

Judge Kaplan acknowledged that Metropolitan Detention Center “is not on anybody’s list of five-star facilities.” However, he rejected the alternative of sending SBF to the more distant Putnam County Correctional Facility.

SBF’s attorneys protested that a staff shortage would reduce his ability to view evidence collected by prosecutors. One of the attorneys, Mark Cohen, says he plans to appeal the decision. Cohen argues that limiting SBF’s ability to communicate with journalists violates his First Amendment rights.

Any jail would likely seem a serious letdown after SBF’s previously lavish lifestyle. The lifestyle included beachfront properties allegedly purchased by FTX for its senior staff.

Read more: SBF leaked diaries to harass Caroline Ellison and derail trial, lawsuit claims

Former inmates describe Sam Bankman-Fried’s jail

His fellow inmates have complained of poor conditions at the jail. These inmates include convicted sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell and former president of Honduras Juan Orlando Hernandez. Other notable inmates include exiled Chinese businessman Guo Wengui, who faces fraud charges for his role in Himalaya Coin.

Hernandez’s lawyer compared conditions at Metropolitan Detention Center to conditions that “prisoners of war” might be forced to endure. Guo’s attorneys called the jail “an extraordinarily dangerous environment.” Public defenders seemed to echo these sentiments by calling the jail “inhumane.”

Issues include staffing shortages and a poor diet that included moldy food. Prisoners and their lawyers have complained of sleep deprivation. An electrical fire cut heat and electricity off at the jail in 2019, causing possible exposure to the frigid temperatures that winter. Maxwell’s lawyers complained of raw sewage leaking into her cell.

The center has also gone into lockdowns to search for contraband weapons. One guard was fired for taking bribes to smuggle drugs inside.

Despite the frequent complaints, Metropolitan Detention Center houses more than 1,600 inmates, while a nearby facility, Manhattan Correctional Center, is closed for renovation.

Some observers predicted that SBF will change his plea to guilty, saying that the jail would be enough to “break anyone.”

Judge Kaplan has scheduled Bankman-Fried’s trial for October 2, 2023. Until then, he will wait inside the notorious Metropolitan Detention Center at Sunset Park.

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