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- Prosecutors claim SBF contacted multiple current and former employees earlier this month.
- The DOJ asked the court to stop him from contacting employees via encrypted apps like Signal.
- Bankman-Fried’s lawyers accused prosecutors of misrepresenting the message in a response filed Saturday.
Prosecutors have asked the federal judge overseeing the case against FTX cofounder Sam Bankman-Fried to prevent him from contacting current or former employees after allegations of potential witness tampering.
In a letter filed Friday in federal court, the Department of Justice claimed that Bankman-Fried contacted FTX’s current general counsel, among others, using the encrypted messaging app Signal.
“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 allegedly texted the general counsel, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors requested that the conditions of Bankman-Fried’s bond be changed so he is no longer allowed to contact employees, who the DOJ considers potential witnesses against the former executive, without a lawyer present. The letter further requests that Bankman-Fried be restricted from using encrypted messaging apps like Signal and Slack that automatically delete messages after a set period of time.
Caroline Ellison — ex-girlfriend of Bankman-Fried and former CEO of his company Alameda Research — is also cited in the letter. Ellison, who pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the government, told investigators that Bankman-Fried formerly stated or implied that not having permanent records of messages could make it more difficult for a hypothetical future case to be built against his companies or himself.
While witness tampering is often associated with threats or intimidation, the DOJ’s letter notes that conversations can also be deemed as interference in an investigation.
“Efforts by the defendant to improve his relationship with potential witnesses that may testify against him may itself constitute witness tampering,” the letter states. “Were the defendant to ‘vet’ his version of relevant events with potential witnesses, that might have the effect of discouraging witnesses from testifying in a manner contrary to the defendant’s narrative.”
Prosecutors said they want Bankman-Fried’s contact to be limited as soon as possible to prevent any potential witness tampering before the government can interview employees they may not have spoken to yet, the letter states.
In a response letter filed to the court Saturday morning, Bankman-Fried’s lawyers proposed forbidding contact with a select list of witnesses, as they argued it is unreasonable to prohibit contact to hundreds of current and former employees.
Bankman-Fried’s lawyers also said the message to FTX’s general counsel is “more reasonably read” as an offer to help FTX navigate its ongoing bankruptcy case. They noted that his Signal messages no longer have the auto-delete function turned on, adding it was “irrelevant” to mention Ellison’s comments about the benefits of the function.