Fallen FTX Founder Sam Bankman-Fried Adopts Mackerel as New Currency, Gives Guards Crypto Tips

Trent Alan
Last updated: | 2 min read
Mackerel, Sam Bankman-Fried, SBF Jail
Behind bars, Bankman-Fried has adopted mackerel packs as currency and advises guards on crypto amidst his legal turmoil over FTX’s collapse. Image by Fareed Mindalano, DALL-E 3.

Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced founder of the failed cryptocurrency exchange FTX, has adapted to life behind bars by adopting mackerel as his new currency of choice while awaiting sentencing on fraud charges, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Bankman-Fried was convicted earlier this month on seven counts of fraud for misusing billions in customer funds before FTX collapsed in bankruptcy in November 2022. He has been detained at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center since a judge revoked his bail in August after claims that he attempted to tamper with witnesses.

From Crypto King to Fishmonger

While his lavish lifestyle funded by FTX’s cryptocurrency trading empire is now a distant memory, Bankman-Fried has learned to manage the peculiarities of the federal prison economy. According to sources familiar with the matter, pouches of mackerel fillets are the preferred jailhouse currency, replacing cigarettes that were banned.

Bankman-Fried has used his stash of fish to barter and pay fellow inmates for services. In one instance, he traded some mackerel packs for a haircut from another detainee to maintain his signature curly mop-top hairstyle ahead of his high-profile trial.

Sam Bankman-Fried Dishing Out Crypto Tips Behind Bars

The once high-flying crypto mogul has also been generously doling out investing tips to prison guards as per the WSJ report, offering his insights on digital currencies from his former life as a Bitcoin billionaire.

Bankman-Fried’s spokesman Mark Botnick confirmed that the disgraced entrepreneur is “doing the best he can under the circumstances.”

The Brooklyn jail conditions are a far cry from Bankman-Fried’s former tropical lifestyle and $35 million penthouse in the Bahamas, however.

The detention center has faced longstanding complaints of poor facilities, severe understaffing, and bleak living conditions. Bankman-Fried’s access to food and medications has improved since his lawyer initially reported issues receiving proper vegetarian meals and Adderall dosages.

Sam Bankman-Fried now receives regular vegetarian options and his required medications, sources told the WSJ. Inmates at the facility do not eat in a communal cafeteria but instead have meals delivered to their housing units. Many prisoners prefer to buy food, clothes, and personal items from the jail’s commissary, where Bankman-Fried’s staple currency mackerel currently retails for $1.30 per pouch.

SBF shares his unit with other high-profile detainees awaiting trial, including Mexican former security chief Genaro Garcia Luna who stands accused of taking bribes from the Sinaloa drug cartel. Another blockmate is former Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernandez who faces drug trafficking charges and denies any wrongdoing.

According to Hernandez’s lawyer Raymond Colon, the ex-leader maintains cordial relations with Bankman-Fried as they serve out their detention. Their circumstances will shift once again after Bankman-Fried’s sentencing when he is expected to be transferred to a federal prison to carry out his likely lengthy sentence.

Prison consultant Bill Baroni, who served time for his role in the Bridgegate political retaliation scandal, noted that Bankman-Fried will gain more freedoms and access to programming in the federal prison system. He will have to continue relying on mackerel as his monetary medium, however.

“The mack currency system is far more stable than crypto,” Baroni stated, having used fish fillets to pay for his own haircuts while incarcerated. For now, Bankman-Fried seems to be adapting as best he can to his new reality behind bars.