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FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried arrives at the US federal courthouse in New York. Image Credit: AFP

New York: Sam Bankman-Fried has been unfairly turned into a “villain” and a “monster” in a movie about a grand fraud scheme, his lawyer said Wednesday, insisting that the FTX co-founder made mistakes, but didn’t commit crimes.

Mark Cohen, Bankman-Fried’s lawyer, attempted to challenge the prosecution’s image of his client earlier in the day as the criminal mastermind in a Hollywood film.

“We will agree there was a time when Sam was probably the worst dressed CEO in the world and had the worst hair cut,” Cohen told jurors in the New York court.

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Cohen accused the government of painting the 31-year-old as a villain because “let’s face it, an awkward high school math nerd doesn’t look villainous.”

The once respected crypto mogul is facing decades in prison on charges that he directed the transfer of customer money at the FTX crypto exchange into Alameda Research, an affiliated hedge fund, for risky investments, political donations and expensive real estate before both companies collapsed into bankruptcy last year.

Cohen told jurors that Bankman-Fried spoke to almost anyone, including journalists, and that made his life messy, but it wasn’t a crime.

Evidence about Bankman-Fried’s trademark messy hair, awkward photographs of him with celebrities had nothing to do with how the FTX exchange was run or the financial health of Alameda Research, Cohen said.

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During his four-week fraud trial, Bankman-Fried’s lawyers have argued the former executive acted in good faith when running his crypto empire before it imploded in late 2022.

Cohen pointed to the lack of sufficient risk management at FTX and said the case came down to decisions - good and bad - and mistakes.

Earlier Wednesday, during the prosecution’s closing arguments, Assistant US Attorney Nicolas Roos told jurors that Bankman-Fried “lied about big things and he lied about little things” during his time on the witness stand.

Roos contrasted Bankman-Fried’s “perfect memory” under questioning by his own lawyer with his inability to remember even simple details once cross-examination began.

“He came up with a tale that was conveniently put together to exclude himself from the fraud” at FTX, Roos told jurors Wednesday morning. “Over three days he took the stand and he lied.”

The jury could begin deliberating as soon as Thursday.