A U.S. attorney indicted the people behind three of the world’s biggest online poker sites on Friday in a case that could permanently alter the U.S. poker market.
The founders of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker were all named in the indictment and the FBI subsequently seized domains for each site.
Among the defendants named were Isai Scheinberg, Raymond Bitar, Scott Tom, Brent Beckly, Nelson Burtnick, Paul Tate, Bradley Franzen, Ira Rubin, Chad Elie and John Campos.
The defendants are being indicted on charges of bank fraud, money laundering and bank fraud.
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, had this to say in the indictment:
"As charged, these defendants concocted an elaborate criminal fraud scheme, alternately tricking some U.S. banks and effectively bribing others to assure the continued flow of billions in illegal gambling profits,” he said.
“Moreover, as we allege, in their zeal to circumvent the gambling laws, the defendants also engaged in massive money laundering and bank fraud. Foreign firms that choose to operate in the United States are not free to flout the laws they don’t like simply because they can’t bear to be parted from their profits."
The U.S. government seized five domain names that were used to host online poker games including www.pokerstars.com, www.fulltilt.com and www.absolutepoker.com.
Restraining orders were also issued against more than 75 bank accounts used by poker companies for processing online payments.
The indictment represents the first serious charge laid against the major online poker rooms since the Unlawful Internet Gambling and Enforcement Act that was passed in 2006. The act essentially banned banks from processing online poker payments.
Since then most rooms have continued to operate in a legal gray area. Some, like PartyPoker, opted to leave the U.S. market altogether.
"These defendants, knowing full well that their business with U.S. customers and U.S. banks was illegal, tried to stack the deck,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk.
“They lied to banks about the true nature of their business. Then, some of the defendants found banks willing to flout the law for a fee. The defendants bet the house that they could continue their scheme, and they lost.”
The indictment seeks over $3 million in money laundering and forfeiture from the defendants.
At the time this article was published it was not clear who would represent the defendants in court.
You can read the entire indictment here.
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