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Caroline Ellison, Star Witness in Sam Bankman-Fried Trial, Says He Made ‘Horrible Errors’

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A lawyer for Sam Bankman-Fried on Thursday sought to undermine the testimony of Caroline Ellison, the prosecution’s star witness in his prison fraud trial, as she continued to insist that the onetime crypto mogul was behind the misuse of billions of {dollars} in buyer cash at his FTX alternate.

Over about 5 hours of cross-examination, Mr. Bankman-Fried’s protection lawyer, Mark Cohen, questioned Ms. Ellison about her choice to cooperate with prosecutors in return for leniency. He additionally requested her a couple of doc she despatched to workers at Alameda Analysis, the crypto buying and selling agency she ran for Mr. Bankman-Fried, which had painted a rosier image of the agency’s funds than she had described in non-public.

However Mr. Cohen didn’t elicit any main revelations or inconsistencies from Ms. Ellison, 28, who adhered to her earlier testimony that she adopted orders from Mr. Bankman-Fried about letting Alameda faucet into FTX buyer funds.

“I feel they had been horrible errors,” she mentioned of Mr. Bankman-Fried’s choices in the summertime of 2022, which in the end led to the collapse of FTX and Alameda Analysis.

Every week into Mr. Bankman-Fried’s trial, Ms. Ellison has emerged because the strongest witness in opposition to him. In a bit over two days of testimony in federal courtroom in Manhattan, she advised a jury that Mr. Bankman-Fried, 31, knew for months that Alameda’s funds had been in a precarious state and that the agency can be laborious pressed to pay again many of the $10 billion it had borrowed from FTX clients.

Ms. Ellison ran Alameda and dated Mr. Bankman-Fried on and off. After FTX and Alameda failed in November, federal prosecutors charged Mr. Bankman-Fried with funneling billions of {dollars} in FTX buyer deposits to Alameda, after which spending the funds on political donations, actual property purchases and different initiatives. He grew to become an emblem of hubris and reckless danger taking throughout the crypto business.

Ms. Ellison and two different high-ranking FTX executives, Gary Wang and Nishad Singh, later pleaded responsible to fraud and agreed to cooperate with the federal government.

Ms. Ellison, who was on the witness stand for a 3rd day, has supplied a few of the most uncooked and emotional testimony of the trial. On Wednesday, she fought again tears as she described the implosion of Mr. Bankman-Fried’s firms, saying a part of her felt relieved that she wouldn’t must lie anymore to hide that Alameda owed billions of {dollars} to FTX’s clients.

Underneath questioning from Mr. Cohen, Ms. Ellison conceded that she despatched a deceptive doc to Alameda workers final yr that introduced a extra bullish model of the buying and selling agency’s efficiency than she had mentioned with Mr. Bankman-Fried.

“Yeah I might say it was deceptive in regards to the true state of Alameda on this doc,” she testified.

However Ms. Ellison mentioned she did that to maintain up the morale of Alameda workers at a time when the crypto market was underneath widespread stress.

Ms. Ellison additionally mentioned that after Mr. Bankman-Fried put her answerable for Alameda in 2021, he didn’t become involved in lots of the agency’s main choices. When a prosecutor adopted up, she mentioned Mr. Bankman-Fried received extra concerned in Alameda by spring 2022 and that he determined to faucet into FTX buyer cash to pay again lenders of the buying and selling agency.

Underneath questioning by Mr. Cohen, Ms. Ellison additionally mentioned that regardless of her considerations, she didn’t resign from Alameda. However when questioned once more by a prosecutor, she mentioned she had severely thought-about resigning within the months earlier than the companies imploded and that Mr. Bankman-Fried talked her out of it.

“I trusted his opinion and I didn’t need FTX and Alameda to break down, and if he thought my resigning may trigger that, I didn’t wish to try this,” she mentioned.

Mr. Cohen additionally targeted on the occasions surrounding Ms. Ellison’s choice to plead responsible and cooperate with prosecutors and her considerations about Alameda utilizing FTX buyer cash.

Ms. Ellison mentioned that F.B.I. brokers confirmed up at her dad and mom’ house final November after FTX and Alameda went underneath. Ms. Ellison mentioned the brokers had a search warrant that allowed them to take computer systems that belonged to her boyfriend, who was staying together with her on the time; and her mom, Sara Fisher Ellison, an economist on the Massachusetts Institute of Know-how. She didn’t identify her boyfriend however mentioned he had labored for Mr. Bankman-Fried’s companies.

In all, Ms. Ellison mentioned she had round 20 conferences with prosecutors, together with one which lasted for a number of hours on Monday, the day earlier than she took the witness stand.

Ms. Ellison additionally mentioned that regardless of her considerations about Alameda borrowing billions of {dollars} in FTX buyer cash, she by no means talked about it with anybody apart from Mr. Bankman-Fried, Mr. Wang and Mr. Singh.

At instances, Ms. Ellison’s testimony this week devolved right into a conflict of attrition between Mr. Cohen and the prosecutors. The attorneys have had a number of conversations with the decide that the jury couldn’t hear to debate the admission of some reveals.

In a single dialog on Wednesday, Danielle Sassoon, an assistant U.S. legal professional, mentioned she seen Mr. Bankman-Fried had “laughed, visibly shaken his head, and scoffed” at varied factors throughout Ms. Ellison’s testimony. Ms. Sassoon speculated it could be “having a visual impact on her,” in response to a trial transcript.

Choose Lewis A. Kaplan, the decide presiding over the trial, mentioned he didn’t see what Ms. Sassoon had referred to so he wouldn’t make any feedback to the jury. However the decide advised Mr. Bankman-Fried’s attorneys to privately inform their shopper that if he was making any seen expressions, he ought to cease.

Christian Drappi, a former developer at Alameda, took the stand after Ms. Ellison completed on Thursday afternoon. Throughout his testimony, the prosecution performed an audio recording of an “all-hands assembly” at which Ms. Ellison advised Alameda workers about using FTX buyer funds and the agency’s imminent collapse.

The flip of occasions left Mr. Drappi “completely shocked,” he mentioned.

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