Lawyers for the controversial cryptocurrency trader Sam Bankman-Fried have said he is subsisting on bread, water and peanut butter ahead of his fraud trial because the jail he is being held in has not provided vegan meals.
Bankman-Fried, the founder of FTX cryptocurrency exchange, was extradited from the Bahamas in December after prosecutors said he stole billions of dollars in customer deposits, spending tens of millions on his businesses, speculative venture investments, charitable donations, and on illegal campaign contributions aimed at influencing cryptocurrency regulation in Washington.
He pleaded not guilty to seven criminal charges of fraud and conspiracy contained in a new indictment on Tuesday.
His lawyer told the hearing that the 31-year-old has not received adequate food and medication at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Centre and this is hampering preparation for his trial that is scheduled to begin in October.
The former billionaire’s lawyers said the jail has also not provided him with the medication Adderall to treat attention deficit hyperactive disorder – despite a court order for the facility to do so.
“Because he’s following his principles, he is literally now subsisting on bread and water,” lawyer Mark Cohen said, adding that his client’s supply of the medication Emsam to treat depression was running low.
US district judge Lewis Kaplan ordered the jail to provide the defendant with the two drugs while magistrate judge Sarah Netburn said she would ask the US Justice Department’s Bureau of Prisons, which runs the jail, to address the issues with Bankman-Fried’s medication.
Ms Netburn said she was “reasonably confident” the facility – long plagued by conditions public defenders called “inhumane” – offered vegetarian food, but was not sure vegan food was available.
The Bureau of Prisons said inmates had access to “appropriate” healthcare, medicine and hot meals. It said the facility “provides nutritionally adequate meals” following the requirements of a national menu that is “analysed yearly to ensure all dietary requirements are met”.
Bankman-Fried was back in court for the first time since his $250m (£213m) bail was revoked on 11 August after a judge found he tampered with witnesses at least twice.
He was jailed after sharing the writings of his former girlfriend and colleague, Caroline Ellison, with a journalist. Ms Ellison has agreed to testify against him at trial.
The new indictment charged Bankman-Fried with seven counts of fraud and conspiracy over the November 2022 collapse of FTX, which is now in bankruptcy.
Read more: The rise and fall of Sam Bankman-Fried
Prosecutors accused him of stealing billions of dollars in FTX customer funds to plug losses at his hedge fund, Alameda Research. Bankman-Fried has denied this.
The indictment no longer charges Bankman-Fried with conspiring to violate US campaign finance laws.
Prosecutors said the Bahamas, which extradited Bankman-Fried to the US in December, objected to him being tried on that count.
US Attorney’s office prosecutors however said they would show that the $100m (£85m) Bankman-Fried allegedly donated to US political campaigns and causes was part of his wide-ranging fraud scheme.