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Sam Bankman-Fried’s Prison Sentence: How it Stacks Up Against Other Financial Fraudsters

Published March 29, 2024 12:45 PM
James Morales
Published March 29, 2024 12:45 PM

Key Takeaways

  • Sam Bankman Fried has been sentenced to 25 years in prison.
  • How does the FTX founder’s punishment compare to other famous fraudsters?
  • SBF joins the list of some of the most well-known financial criminals who have served time.

Sam Bankman Fried (SBF) has received a 25-year prison sentence for his role in the embezzlement of billions of dollars worth of crypto from FTX customers. If his appeal is successful and he behaves himself in jail, however, he could be out within less than a decade.

While the FTX case has been called the crypto sector’s Maddof moment, a quarter of a century still falls short of the sentence dished out to the infamous Ponzi director. But how does it compare to other high-profile fraudsters who have spent time in jail over the years?

Bernie Maddoff

The man whose name is synonymous with the multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme he operated before his arrest in 2008, Bernard Madoff received a prison term that reflected the seriousness of his crimes.

For a scam that led many victims to financial ruin, Judge Denny Chin gave Maddof a sentence of 150 years, ensuring that he spent the rest of his life behind bars.

While handing down the sentence, the judge explained that the length of the term was a symbolic gesture intended to reflect the “extraordinary evil” of Madoff’s crime.

Victor Lustig

Known as the man who sold the Eiffel Tower twice, Victor Lustig was a career con artist who spent most of his life defrauding banks, investors, unfortunate members of the public and, notoriously, scrap metal dealers. 

However, Lustig’s demise didn’t come at the hands of one of his victims or the investigators who had spent decades trying to catch him. In the end, it was a jealous lover who ratted him out when she discovered he was having an affair.

After he was arrested for counterfeiting, escaped from jail and was recaptured 27 days later, Lustig eventually pleaded guilty to the charges against him and was sentenced to fifteen years in Alcatraz prison for the original crime, plus an additional five years for attempting to get away.

Jordan Belfort

Like Victor Lustig, Jordan Belfort’s story makes for good cinema and both men have been portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in Hollywood movies. 

Belfort’s nickname – “the Wolf of Wallstreet” – reflects the predatory nature of the brokerage house he founded, Stratton Oakmont, which was known for pressuring investors into placing their money in highly speculative securities.

In 1999, Belfort was indicted for securities fraud and money laundering. He was initially sentenced to 4 years in prison. However, for agreeing to become an FBI informant, he only served 22 months of the sentence.

Since being released, Belfort has reinvented himself as a public speaker, sales guru and cryptocurrency investor.

Ivan Boesky

One of the first Wall Street traders to be jailed for insider trading, Ivan Boesky leveraged advanced knowledge of tender offers and merger agreements to amass a fortune of more than $200 million in the 1980s.

Following an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), “Ivan the Terrible” received a 3-and-a-half-year prison sentence and a $100 million fine for violating Federal securities laws.

Jeffrey Skilling

As the CEO of Enron Finance in the 1990s, Jeffrey Skilling oversaw one of the biggest accounting frauds in history that brought a multi-billion dollar company to its knees.

Prior to the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, the Enron bankruptcy was the largest ever, with shareholders estimated to be as much as $74 billion out of pocket as a result.

For his role in the scandal, a jury found Skilling guilty of one count of conspiracy, 12 counts of securities fraud, one count of insider trading, and five counts of making false statements to auditors. 

In 2006, the disgraced Enron boss was sentenced to 24 years and 4 months in prison and was fined $45 million. after serving 13 years of the sentence, Skilling was released in 2019.

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