U.S. Attorneys Indict Poker Founders
The U.S. attorney's office unsealed an indictment on Friday charging "bank fraud, money laundering, and illegal gambling offenses" against 11 defendants including the founders of Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars and Absolute Poker.
In addition, over 75 bank accounts associated with the poker companies and their payment processors have been seized along with five internet domains.
In a release regarding the indictment, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated:
"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.
"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 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 makes the processing of online gambling payments by U.S. banks illegal.
Online processors have been finding ways to circumvent this for years and this seems to be the first major offensive by the U.S. government in trying to prosecute the offenders.
A number of payment processors are being indicted for working as middle men between the poker companies and the banks and are accused of using advanced methods to disguise the true nature of the payments.
The prosecutors are requesting more than $3 billion dollars in penalties from the defendants, along with up to 30 years in prison.
The following persons are included in the indictment:
- Isai Scheinberg, founder of PokerStars
- Raymond Bitar, principal of Full Tilt Poker
- Scott Tom, co-founder of Absolute Poker
- Brent Beckley, co-founder of Absolute Poker
- Nelson Burtnick
- Paul Tate
- Ryan Lang
- Bradley Franzen
- Ira Rubin
- Chad Elie
- John Campos
The primary defendants involved in the indictment have yet to comment as of 3 p.m. PST.
Both Full Tilt Poker and UB.com are showing notices from the FBI indicating their domain names have been seized, while PokerStars and AbsolutePoker are still, as of 4 pm PST, accessible to computers outside of the U.S.
Update: All sites are now showing seizure notices.
See the full press release from the Department of Justice here.