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SBF at SDNY Triggers Creepy Dough Questions Awaiting Extradition Like OneCoin Rhino Horn

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Maxwell book
BBC - Honduras - CIA Trial book - NY Mag

LITERARY SDNY, Dec 13 – The Sam Bankman-Fried indictment was set to be unsealed in the morning, but where? Kurt Wheelock did a stand-up vlog in Foley Square, leaning his cell phone against the short thermos he brought Balkan soup in to microwave for lunch, in the courthouse press room.

   In it he explained where he was going to go, once he got inside, and teased the issue of Bankman-Fried's bought influence in the United Nations, from which Kurt was still banned, just as SBF had bought Washington.  

  The House Financial Services Committee hearing, entitled "The Collapse of FTX," was to start in half an hour. Kurt had time to look for the unsealing.   He swiped into the courthouse, agreeing with the Court Security Officer manning the turnstile that yeah, it was too cold too fast, and took the side elevator up to the 5th floor where the SDNY Magistrates Court is. 

  It's called the Arraignment Court, but it is also where indictments fresh out of the Grand Jury across the street are brought to the Magistrate on duty, to be ordered unsealed (if they are), and wheeled out to a District Judge.

  But the Mag Court's door was locked. A woman down the hall in the Plexi-glassed booth of Pre-Trial Services waved to Kurt and he waved back, adding a shrug as if to say, Crazy Mag Court, no way to know when it is open and processing new arrests. Then he took the elevator up to the 8th floor, to walk to the other side of the building. 

  That hallway is glass on one side, facing the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges and, between them, buildings Kurt had come to love. He would sometimes shoot his vlogs out on the balcony, with the bridges behind him, and the EDNY courthouse on Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn on the horizon behind him. But what new news was there to report? That the Mag Court's door was locked?  In fact, Kurt did report that, as a tweet on top of a tweet.

This SFB crypto fraud case was going to be big, bigger than the OneCoin scam that Kurt had covered when he first got to this courthouse, after being thrown out of the UN. Bankman-Fried's FTX was an actual crypto exchange, not a fake crypto without even a blockchain like the OneCoin of Ruja Ignatova and her brother Konstantin.

  And FTX's Bankman-Fried, unlike Ruja who had disappeared just before being arrested, was in custody now in the Bahamas. He was fighting for bail this morning down there, and when he would arrive in New York and SDNY would largely ride on the outcome of that bail hearing. 

  Kurt quickly learned that the US versus SBF indictment had been unsealed, by the Magistrate Judge on duty this week, James Cott. Kurt got a stamped copy, uploaded it to his DocumentCloud and tweeted it. He updated the story on his website, then ran back to the Magistrates Court. How had it been unsealed? When?  

 This same question, or at least one of timing, was asked in the House Financial Service hearing by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She grilled SBF's corporate successor as CEO about the timing of FTX's offers to Bahamian authorities, his scheduled appearance at this morning's hearing, and his arrest the evening before. Ray said his focus was on trying to track down the missing assets, like at Enron. But this fraud was different.

  Before AOC's line of questioning to a by-then largely empty hearing room, Committee Chair Maxine Waters had turned 180 degrees and said she hoped SBF would be held accountable. From the other side of the aisle came pleas to not throw the crypto baby out with the Bankman-Fried bathwater.

    But one thing was inescapable: SBF had been showering members of Congress with money to promote crypto legislation he favored. Now that FTX had collapsed with billions of dollars missing, and he was indicted, would the bill go on? 

  Word came that the US Attorney for SDNY Damian Williams would be holding a press conference just up St. James Place or alley from the courthouse. The rumor was that it would be at 1 pm, then the notice went out: 2 pm. Maybe it was in deference to the still-ongoing House Financial Services hearing.

  This gave Kurt time to run up to the 23rd floor of the courthouse - by elevator of course - and check in on an ongoing trial, of doctors and lawyers involved in a trip and fall insurance fraud ring, and then on the sentencing of a man extradited from Senegal for illegal trafficking of rhino horn. His extradition had been smooth. But would SBF's be?

  In the OneCoin case, Ruja Ignatova's spy who had tipped her off to impending arrest, a man named Frank Schneider, had contested his extradition to NY from France for months. Bankman-Fried could probably do the same in Bahamas, given the money he had thrown around there, like another expatriate, pedophile fashionista Peter Nygard of Canada (himself also with extradition to SDNY delayed, amid Zoom hearings behind COVID masks in Canada). 

 At 1:50 Kurt walked over to the prosecutors' office and put on the COVID mask they had gone back to requiring. The press conference was not in the lobby as usual but rather upstairs in the library, where Williams had spoken about but not taken questions on the repatriation of stone sculptures to Cambodia. Kurt took a seat in the fourth row and tweeted. Slowly, since the cell phone reception wasn't strong. Maybe by design? 

  Williams spoke, then the FBI, SEC and CFTC. The SEC guy, something of a fixture now at these press conferences, turned the floor back over to Williams rather than to his CFTC counterpart, who looked on, bemused.

 This mirrored the competition on who would regulate crypto -- or "creepy dough" as Representative Emanuel Cleaver of Kansas City had insisted on calling it at the House Financial Services hearing. Creepy Dough indeed.

  When it came time for Q&A, still wearing his COVID mask, Kurt asked Damian Williams if his Office or DOJ would be going after the politicians who'd taken SBF's money, and about the bill he'd bought that was still pending. Then if he would be asking to remand SBF to jail pending trial. 

 That's a lot of questions, Williams quipped. Then he dodged all of them, saying he would not expand on the indictment, nor speak about bail with Bankman-Fried still in the Bahamas.

Lot of questions indeed. Kurt would be digging into them - Creepy Dough, more on Patreon here


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