It didn’t take long for the ex-billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried to grasp the economic dynamics of New York’s Metropolitan Detention Center.

The creator of the cryptocurrency platform FTX, now facing serious charges, has resorted to bartering in prison. Engaging in this unconventional economy, he exchanges food items for various services. These transactions occur as he awaits sentencing on seven counts, including wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Notably, the fresh, well-groomed haircut he’s recently sported in New York courtrooms seems to be the result of an arrangement with another inmate. In a recent report from The Wall Street Journal, SBF was disclosed to have used packaged mackerel. This pelagic fish, favored among detainees, served as the chosen currency for settling the cost of a haircut.

However, it comes as no surprise that the former trader swiftly adapted to the preferred medium of exchange in his new surroundings, given his extensive experience as a professional trader.

Sam Bankman-Fried: A Transition from Bitcoin Trading to Mackerel Bartering Behind Bars

Beginning as an intern at Jane Street Capital in 2013, he transitioned to co-founding his cryptocurrency trading firm, Alameda Research, in 2017. A year later, he successfully navigated the intricacies of arbitraging bitcoin between the US and Japanese markets.

The fish, referred to as “macks” by inmates, has functioned as the primary currency in federal prisons since 2004. This shift occurred after cigarettes were banned, as per sources cited by The Journal in 2008.

Larry Levine, a former incarcerated attorney, confirmed that he accepted mackerel as payment. This occurred from fellow inmates he represented while serving his sentence at the Lompoc correctional institution in California.

Subsequently, he employed these fish currency units to clear debts. This involved settling payments for personal services such as beard trims and shoeshines, as reported earlier by The Journal.

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In 2008, Global Source Marketing, a supplier of mackerel, noted the rising popularity of this unconventional currency in prisons, leading to an increased demand for the fish.

Moreover, non-perishable goods, such as specific food items and stamps, hold a stable value. These items function as a dependable medium of exchange, serving as substitutes for traditional currency, which inmates do not have access to. Mackerel and tuna, being stable commodities, offer a consistent value pegged to the dollar.

Bankman-Fried, scheduled for sentencing on March 28, 2024, faces a potential 110-year prison term for the fraud charges. However, these charges constitute only a portion of the legal troubles he confronts, as he is also slated to face trial for separate counts related to political bribery.

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