FTP Lawyers Dismiss Ponzi Scheme Claim, French Investors Rumored

Chris "Jesus" Ferguson

Two of the lawyers acting on behalf of Full Tilt Poker have summarily dismissed US Attorney Preet Bhahara's suggestion that Full Tilt was a “global Ponzi scheme.”

Ian Imrich, a Los Angeles-based attorney representing Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, released a statement calling the use of the term careless and inflammatory.

“While the government has obviously taken issue with the underlying activities of FTP, under any reasonable interpretation, the worldwide operations of the online cardroom are not a so-called Ponzi scheme,” said Imrich.

“Use of the inflammatory term Ponzi scheme in the post-Madoff era is more than careless and may violate pre-trial publicity rules of professional responsibility.”

Jeff Ifrah, acting attorney for Full Tilt in its hearing with the Alderney Gambling Control Commission, echoed that sentiment in an interview with Reuters UK.

"I disagree strongly with the allegation that FTP operated as a global Ponzi scheme," Ifrah said on Wednesday.

"FTP may have made mistakes, but I have seen no evidence to support the DOJ's characterization of it as a global Ponzi scheme."

The distinction, Imrich says, is that a Ponzi scheme is "an investment fraud that involves the payment of purported returns to existing investors from funds contributed by new investors."

Full Tilt never came close to offering anything near a Ponzi scheme, Irfah added in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, suggesting it operated more like a “problematic bank.”

"A Ponzi scheme requires an investment vehicle in order to receive a certain rate of high return," Ifrah said. "None of those things happened here."

Ifrah also characterized the primary issue in the case as "mismanagement."

French Investment Group In the Picture?

In the background of the amended complaint released by US Attorney Bhahara on Tuesday is the now-concluded hearing in London between Full Tilt and the AGCC regarding Full Tilt's license suspension.

Ifrah indicated in an email to a member of the 2+2 forums that the primary issue being considered is another 30-day extension for Full Tilt to finalize a deal with a potential new ownership group.

Ifrah followed that up in an interview with eGaming Review by saying a deal with an unnamed party is in the works and a letter of intent is in place that includes provisions for settling any fines with the Department of Justice and repaying all funds to players worldwide.

The letter expires on September 30, however, and is not binding in its entirety.

According to an article on the French media site mediapart.fr, that investment group is rumored to include Laurent Tapie, son of noted French businessman, politician and actor Bernard Tapie.

Bernard Tapie is well known in the business world as a specialist in the recovery of bankrupted companies, having turned around several dozen in the late 80s and doing the same for Adidas in the early 90s.

No official statement has been released by either Full Tilt or the AGCC.