Who’s The Wealthiest Person Behind Bars? The Answer Just Changed.

A judge sentenced the former Binance CEO to four months in prison. Who’s The Wealthiest Person Behind Bars? The Answer Just Changed. Wikipedia/Aevozer

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As cryptocurrency continues to gain a foothold in the national and global economy, the arrival of scammers and fraudsters was inevitable. And that means, like in previous forms of white-collar crime, there are going to be some very wealthy people charged, convicted, and sentenced to prison.

The guilty plea of former Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao (commonly referred to as CZ) adds a new dimension to this story. His $43 billion fortune dwarfs that of any other individual ever sentenced to serve time in prison.

A four-month stint

Zhao appeared in court yesterday to learn his fate after admitting to his violation of legal requirements aimed at thwarting money laundering. Prosecutors wanted him to receive a three-year prison sentence, but a judge in the case opted for a significantly shorter four-month term.

As a result of an investigation into Binance’s operations, Zhao agreed to step down as its chief executive … but he reportedly maintains a 90% stake in the crypto exchange. That means his personal fortune could easily continue to grow even as he bides his time behind bars.

How CZ stacks up

Zhao’s attorneys had hoped that he wouldn’t spend any time in prison despite sentencing guidelines for the crime falling between 12 and 18 months. He sent a letter to the judge in February in which he admitted — and apologized for — the “poor decisions” he made at the helm of the company.

That was followed up by the defense team’s assertion that his “lack of criminal history” and “acceptance of responsibility” (not to mention a “devotion” to his family) warranted a probated sentence and house arrest.

But now he’s got the dubious distinction of being the richest man behind bars, with a net worth nearly $20 billion higher than disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried had at his peak.

Chris Agee
Chris Agee May 1st, 2024
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