Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of the collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX, was ordered to jail on Friday after a federal judge in New York revoked his bail, in a dramatic twist less than two months before the case was set to go to trial.
Mr. Bankman-Fried, 31, had been under house arrest at his parents’ home in Palo Alto, Calif., since he was arrested in December on fraud charges stemming from FTX’s implosion. But at Friday’s hearing, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court in Manhattan said that arrangement would have to end, after prosecutors argued that Mr. Bankman-Fried had given documents to the media to intimidate a witness in the case.
The decision was the latest extraordinary development in one of the most dramatic corporate implosions in recent memory. FTX rode the highs of the cryptocurrency market to become one of the industry’s leading companies, before filing for bankruptcy after a run on deposits last fall. Over just a few weeks, Mr. Bankman-Fried went from an industry titan courted by politicians and celebrities to a criminal defendant facing decades in prison.
Now he will have to prepare for trial from a jail cell. The court dispute over his bail focused on an article in The New York Times published last month that described private writings by Caroline Ellison, an executive in Mr. Bankman-Fried’s business empire who also dated him. Ms. Ellison has pleaded guilty to fraud charges and agreed to cooperate with the prosecutors investigating Mr. Bankman-Fried.
In court filings, prosecutors said Mr. Bankman-Fried had given the documents to The Times to intimidate Ms. Ellison by casting her in a negative light ahead of his trial in October. They also noted that Mr. Bankman-Fried has had numerous conversations with other journalists, including the author Michael Lewis, who is writing a book about FTX that is set for publication the week the trial begins.
Before calling for Mr. Bankman-Fried’s bail to be revoked, the prosecutors had also asked Judge Kaplan to impose a gag order preventing the FTX founder from speaking to the media before his trial.
Lawyers for Mr. Bankman-Fried said that when he gave the documents to The Times, he was exercising his rights to answer “an inquiry from the media” and that he did not breach the terms of his bail. The Times, the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press and a documentarian making a film about Mr. Bankman-Fried each submitted court filings raising First Amendment concerns about the gag order.
Mr. Bankman-Fried was arrested in the Bahamas, where FTX was based, after the company imploded over a turbulent week in November. He was extradited to the United States and released on highly restrictive bail conditions that required him to wear an ankle monitor and stay confined to his parents’ house.
Since his release, Mr. Bankman-Fried has been reprimanded repeatedly for behavior that prosecutors said pushed the boundaries of what he was allowed to do while awaiting trial.
In court filings in January, the prosecutors presented evidence that Mr. Bankman-Fried had sent messages to a former FTX executive who could be a witness in the case. They also said Mr. Bankman-Fried had used a virtual private network, or VPN, to access the internet.
At the time, Judge Kaplan ordered Mr. Bankman-Fried to submit to tighter bail requirements that restricted which websites he could access and prevented him from communicating with former FTX employees. Visitors to his parents’ house were prohibited from bringing phones or computers inside.
The Times’s article about Ms. Ellison included excerpts from private Google documents addressed to Mr. Bankman-Fried. At a court hearing on July 26, the prosecutors argued that the article showed Mr. Bankman-Fried was seeking to intimidate and discredit a key government witness.
“No set of release conditions can assure the safety of the community,” Danielle Sassoon, one of the prosecutors, said at the hearing. “The defendant has shown now that he is intent on exploiting the conditions of release and improperly influencing this trial.”
Santul Nerkar contributed reporting.