Prosecutors behind the criminal case against former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried have requested additional time to consider the legal implications of him using a virtual private network, or VPN.
In a Feb. 13 filing with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said the Justice Department had uncovered that Bankman-Fried accessed the internet on Jan. 29 and Feb. 12 — the second date being Super Bowl LVII. According to Williams, the government’s view was that using a VPN “raises several potential concerns,” citing examples of U.S.-based users accessing certain international crypto exchanges and obscuring data from websites Bankman-Fried may be visiting.
“A VPN allows data transfers without detection through a secure, encrypted connection [and] is a more secure and covert method of accessing the dark web,” said the filing. “The defense maintains that the defendant was not using a VPN for any improper purpose and has indicated that it would like the opportunity to engage in discussions with the Government about the issue.”
According to Mark Cohen of the law firm Cohen & Gresser — representing SBF in the criminal case — the former FTX CEO used the VPN to watch sports coverage, including the Super Bowl. He added that until the issue was resolved among lawyers, Bankman-Fried would not use a VPN.
“On January 29, 2023, he watched the AFC and NFC Championship games and on February 12, he watched the Super Bowl. This use of a VPN does not implicate any of the concerns raised by the Government in its letter.”
The court document suggested that Bankman-Fried’s legal team was discussing whether the former FTX CEO’s use of a VPN could be included as a condition of his bail. Since SBF’s arrest, prosecutors have already asked the court to restrict Bankman-Fried’s use of certain messaging apps and refrain from contacting current or former FTX and Alameda Research employees. Both Bankman-Fried’s lawyers and U.S. prosecutors requested until Feb. 17 to discuss the impact SBF using a VPN could have on his bail conditions.
Bankman-Fried’s criminal trial is scheduled to begin in October when he will face eight counts related to wire fraud and violations of campaign finance laws. A judge ruled on Feb. 13 that civil cases SBF faces from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission will wait until the conclusion of the criminal case.
Update (Feb. 14 at 7:25 PM UTC): A judge ordered Sam Bankman-Fried not to use a VPN as a condition of his bail, with a hearing set for Feb. 16 to present arguments.