Nervous Caroline Ellison blamed SBF for ‘borrowing’ FTX funds in recording played at fraud trial: ‘Sam, I guess’

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Jurors at Sam Bankman-Fried’s fraud trial heard a recording Thursday of an infamous all-hands meeting in which the fallen crypto king’s ex-lover Caroline Ellison blamed him for using FTX customer funds to plug losses at his failed hedge fund — and dodged a question about whether the move was a spur-of-the-moment, “yolo” decision. “Um….Sam I guess,” answered Ellison, the former CEO of Alameda Research, after nervously laughing when a colleague asked her who ordered the trading firm to “borrow” more than $8 billion of funds from its sister cryptocurrency exchange. “I think like, FTX, like, basically, always allowed Alameda to, like, borrow user funds as far as I know,” Ellison, 28, admits in the Nov. 9, 2022, recording of the meeting that unfolded in Alameda’s Hong Kong office. Prosecutors introduced the recording into evidence after briefly calling former Alameda employee Christian Drappi to the stand at the Manhattan federal court trial. Drappi testified that he asked Ellison during the meeting whether the fateful decision to use FTX funds was “like a yolo thing,” a reference to the saying, popular with millennials, that “you only live once.” “What does yolo mean?” prosecutor Danielle Sassoon asked. “It’s an acronym for you only live once,” Drappi responded. But Ellison “dodged the question,” Drappi added from the stand. Earlier, Ellison, in her third day of testimony, revealed that she had been dating one of her embattled company’s other employees when FBI agents raided her home days after FTX and Alameda — the fund she ran and that Bankman-Fried owned — imploded. “My boyfriend was there, and my mom’s cleaner who came once a week,” Ellison recalled of the November 2022 episode. Federal agents seized computers belonging to Ellison, her parents and the boyfriend, Ellison testified. The boyfriend was not identified. Ellison earlier testified that she dated Bankman-Fried, 31, on and off between the summer of 2020 and spring of 2022. She also told jurors on Wednesday that Bankman-Fried believed he didn’t need to follow moral codes such as “don’t lie” and “don’t steal,” because he was a “utilitarian” working for the “greater good” of society. Ellison’s cross examination Thursday from Bankman-Fried’s lawyers was largely drama-free. Bankman-Fried’s defense attorney, Mark Cohen, spent most of the day questioning Ellison about her financial strategy and accounting practices while running Alameda. At a few points, Cohen implied that Ellison should have reduced Alameda’s risk by “hedging” the company’s financial bets. Ellison admitted that the company did make “terrible mistakes” — but maintained that her ex-boyfriend Bankman-Fried was the one truly calling the shots on important Alameda decisions, like repaying lenders with FTX user funds. Ellison also disclosed Thursday that Bankman-Fried talked her out of quitting Alameda months before FTX’s collapse. “He told me that I couldn’t, that I was too important,” Ellison said on the stand. “I trusted his opinion and I didn’t want FTX and Alameda to collapse,” she added. The trial is set to resume Friday morning with testimony from Zac Prince, the CEO of crypto lender Block Fi, which reportedly was aware of FTX’s financial issues months before the crypto exchange folded. Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty to two counts of fraud and five counts of conspiracy.

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