By Jacob Shamsian, Insider
5th December 2022 – (New York) Convicted scammer Anna Sorokin thinks Sam Bankman-Fried’s media apology tour is insincere garbage, she told Insider, believing he’s trying to lay the groundwork for a legal defense over his role in FTX’s meltdown and the evaporation of billions of dollars.
“He’s just trying to save himself,” she told Insider Thursday. “That would be his defense if he is going to get prosecuted: ‘I didn’t know Alameda was overleveraged’ — which is a crazy f—ing claim — that it’s the girlfriend’s fault. You can see the seeds of that already.”
Sorokin was herself convicted in 2019 of scamming banks and hotels out of around $200,000 — a saga that was later adapted into Netflix’s limited series “Inventing Anna.” Under the fake name “Anna Delvey,” she presented herself as a wealthy heiress and sought to obtain funds to build a project called the Anna Delvey Foundation.
Bankman-Fried, too, is battling accusations of fraud — on a much larger scale.
His crypto exchange firm FTX collapsed in November amid reports that it appeared to commingle funds with Alameda Research, a separate investing company he owned and which was run by Caroline Ellison, who he said was also a former romantic partner. Multiple federal agencies are reviewing his actions, which could lead to civil enforcement or criminal charges.
Bankman-Fried has since gone on a media apology tour, claiming he believes he could have avoided FTX’s problems had he only focused more on risk management and that he could have saved the exchange from collapse if he had more time to find investors. He has said he was giving media interviews against the advice of his attorneys.
Other FTX executives did not appear to share his optimism. A top lawyer for the company during the collapse said Bankman-Fried’s plan to save the exchange by shoring up more investments had a “0% likelihood of success,” the New York Times reported. Days later, John Jay Ray III, the corporate turnaround executive who took over as FTX’s CEO after Bankman-Fried resigned, was aghast at the state of the company.
“Never in my career have I seen such a complete failure of corporate controls and such a complete absence of trustworthy financial information as occurred here,” Ray wrote in the bankruptcy filing for the firm.
Sorokin believes Bankman-Fried’s entreaties to the media are insincere.
“It’s a Ponzi scheme, what he did,” she told Insider.
‘He’s just looking for pity’
Through his media interviews, Bankman-Fried is trying to cultivate a more innocent image in the public eye, Sorokin speculated. She doesn’t buy it.
“If he was a female he’d either be portrayed as a total con or entirely inadequate and unfit, or both at the same time,” she said. “Now he gets to play this awkward, non-threatening, seemingly well-meaning earnest fellow who’s trying to make it right by the customers.”
She believes Bankman-Fried never expected to be in the situation he’s in now, and would have continued his alleged scheme had Changpeng Zhao, Binance’s CEO and co-founder, not initiated the crypto version of a “bank run” on FTX.
“He never expected for it to blow up like that,” she said. “That’s only because of CZ.”
Sorokin is also skeptical of Bankman-Fried’s claim that he has only $100,000 left. She doesn’t believe it would be enough to cover his normal expenses, much less make sense for a person who has poured millions into political advocacy groups.
“I don’t buy it that he had crypto only. It’s not that widely accepted to be able to get one through regular life expenses. He’s just looking for pity,” she said. “I’m sure all the PACs were accepting fiat, not crypto. He couldn’t just completely live off of company funds.”
Sorokin completed her time in prison in 2021 and has paid back all of the banks and other institutions she took from using the money she received from Netflix, but she is appealing her criminal conviction anyway. During her trial, her attorney argued that her actions should be understood as civil rather than criminal disputes. She may have been in over her head, the lawyer argued, but she always intended to repay every cent.
Similar to Bankman-Fried, she has maintained that her original plans were sincere and legitimate. The main reason the Anna Delvey Foundation wasn’t successful, her lawyer argued at trial, was because she didn’t have the management skills — not because she was trying to steal.
The difference between their situations, though, is in the billions of dollars. Sorokin acknowledged that Bankman-Fried’s narrative that he was blindsided, rather than willfully preying on FTX’s customers, may be legitimate. But it doesn’t give her comfort.
“I don’t know which one is worse — that he actually was not in control, or if he’s trying to cover it up now. It’s f—ing scary if he was so negligent.”