The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an investigation into a $372 million cryptocurrency theft on defunct exchange FTX shortly after the company declared bankruptcy.
The hacking investigation is separate from the federal fraud case against disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, Bloomberg reported.
Bankman-Fried, 30, is not suspected of the theft. Shortly after the crypto robbery was initially reported in mid-November, he theorized it was an inside job executed by someone else at FTX as the company collapsed.
An estimated $372 million was siphoned from FTX the same day it declared bankruptcy. Federal investigators have managed to freeze some of the stolen money, but the vast majority remains unfrozen, according to Bloomberg. Some of the money was converted into different cryptocurrencies.
No suspects have been identified, and Bloomberg sources did not confirm Bankman-Fried’s theory about an inside job.
“I’ve narrowed it down to like eight people,” Bankman-Fried said in an interview before he was arrested. “I don’t know which one it was.”
Bankman-Fried was arrested at his home in the Bahamas on Dec. 12. He was extradited to the U.S. on Dec. 21 and then released on $250 million bail to his parents’ home in the San Francisco Bay Area.
A new judge also took charge of Bankman-Fried’s case on Tuesday. After the initial judge recused herself due to an apparent conflict of interest, the case was assigned to Manhattan Federal Court’s Lewis A. Kaplan, who’s been on the bench since 1994.
During his lengthy career, Kaplan has presided over several prominent cases. He’s currently in charge of writer E. Jean Carroll’s lawsuit accusing former President Donald Trump of rape. He also handled Jeffrey Epstein victim Virginia Giuffre’s lawsuit against Britain’s Prince Andrew. More recently, he presided over actor Anthony Rapp’s sexual assault lawsuit against Kevin Spacey.
Kaplan is known for his ornery demeanor and has been irascible toward lawyers on all sides in his nearly three-decade career. In 1997, he ripped a then-federal agency, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, writing, “The INS has in the three years I’ve been on the bench acquitted itself in disastrous fashion more than once, but this one takes the cake and I’m not going to stand for it much longer.”
Until FTX’s collapse in November, Bankman-Fried was a crypto star worth billions on paper. His company announced itself with splashy ads featuring celebrities, including Larry David.
But crypto began to collapse in late 2022, and FTX lost significant value. One of its competitors, Binance, planned to buy out FTX, but bailed on the deal after looking closer at the company’s finances. FTX and Bankman-Fried filed for bankruptcy.
According to the feds, Bankman-Fried and his pals at FTX used customer money to make highly speculative investments through another company, Alameda Research. Many of those bets failed.
Two of Bankman-Fried’s FTX friends have already flipped, pleading guilty to fraud counts and agreeing to testify against him.
With News Wire Services