Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced founder of FTX, has resorted to trading mackerel fish as a form of currency to cover expenses while incarcerated. This unconventional economic system, prevalent in federal prisons since 2004, involves bartering food items for various services. In anticipation of sentencing on seven felony counts, including wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy, Bankman-Fried has adapted to the economic dynamics of the Metropolitan Detention Center in New York.
Notably, he recently utilized packaged mackerel to pay for a haircut, shedding light on the widespread use of this pelagic fish as a preferred currency among inmates. Bankman-Fried’s acumen in adapting to this new environment reflects his background as a professional trader, with a career spanning from his internship at Jane Street Capital in 2013 to co-founding Alameda Research in 2017.
The choice of mackerel, colloquially known as “macks,” gained prominence in federal prisons following the prohibition of cigarettes in 2004. This commodity’s popularity for exchange in the incarcerated community extends to the point that Global Source Marketing, a fish supplier, experienced increased demand in 2008, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Formerly incarcerated individuals, such as attorney Larry Levin, have accepted mackerel as payment from fellow inmates and used it to obtain personal services like beard trims and shoe shines. This unconventional economic trend is rooted in the logic of using stable commodities, like mackerel and tuna, with a consistent value as substitutes for traditional currency.
Facing potential imprisonment for up to 110 years due to fraud charges, Bankman-Fried’s legal troubles extend beyond his imminent sentencing. Additional charges related to political bribery await trial, marking a complex legal situation for the once-prominent crypto-billionaire.