NEW YORK, USA – Sam Bankman-Fried, the former crypto-billionaire and founder of FTX, has swiftly adapted to the economic landscape of New York’s Metropolitan Detention Center, using mackerel as currency to pay for a haircut.
This insight into Bankman-Fried’s prison life was reported by the Wall Street Journal on Friday, November 24, 2023, shedding light on the unique monetary system within the prison walls.
Since his incarceration on seven felony counts, including wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, Bankman-Fried has been seen in New York courtrooms sporting a new, polished haircut.
A source revealed to the Journal that he obtained this haircut in exchange for packaged mackerel, a popular currency among inmates.
The use of mackerel as currency in prisons dates back to 2004, following the ban of cigarettes.
This form of trade has been a staple in federal prisons, with inmates using “macks,” as they are colloquially known, for various transactions. The trend became so prevalent that Global Source Marketing, a supplier of the fish, reported a significant increase in demand in 2008.
Larry Levine, a formerly incarcerated attorney, also engaged in this barter system during his time at the Lompoc correctional institution in California.
He accepted mackerel for legal services provided to fellow prisoners, which he then used for personal services like beard trims and shoeshines.
The choice of food items like mackerel and tuna as a form of currency is rooted in their stable value and ability to be pegged to the dollar, providing a steady means of exchange in an environment where access to actual currency is restricted.
Bankman-Fried, known for his professional trading skills, seems to have quickly adapted to this system. His career began with an intern gig at Jane Street Capital in 2013, followed by co-founding Alameda Research in 2017, and exploiting bitcoin arbitrage opportunities between the US and Japanese markets.
Facing up to 110 years in prison for his fraud charges, with sentencing scheduled for March 28, 2024, Bankman-Fried’s adaptation to prison life is a stark contrast to his former status as a cryptocurrency mogul.
In addition to the fraud charges, he is also set to stand trial for separate counts related to political bribery.