PokerStarts, FullTilt and Absolute Poker Arrested in US Crackdown on Online Gambling
11 Arrested in Crackdown on Online Gambling
Reprinted courtesy of the New York Times
The owners of three of the largest Internet poker companies operating in the United States were accused Friday of tricking regulators and banks into processing billions of dollars of illegal Internet gambling proceeds.
Eleven people including the owners of Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker and PokerStars were charged with violating anti-Internet gambling laws, according to charges filed by federal prosecutors in Manhattan.
Prosecutors also filed a civil money laundering complaint seeking to recover at least $3 billion from the companies, which are all based overseas, court documents said.
In addition, according to the government statement, restraining orders were issued against more than 75 bank accounts used by the poker companies and their payment processors. And the Internet domain names of the companies were also seized.
Representatives for the companies could not immediately be reached to comment on the charges.
Two of the men were arrested on Friday, one is expected to turn himself in to law enforcement and eight others are not in the United States, prosecutors said.
Raymond Bitar, 39, of Full Tilt Poker, and Isai Scheinberg, 64, of PokerStars, were charged with violating the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and other laws. Absolute Poker owners Brent Beckley, 31, and Scott Tom, 31, faced similar charges.
“These defendants, knowing full well that their business with U.S. customers and U.S. banks was illegal, tried to stack the deck,” Janice K. Fedarcyk, the head of the New York F.B.I. office, said in a statement. “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 criminal charges outlined a scheme by the company owners and some employees to direct the gambling profits to online shell companies that would appear legitimate to banks processing payments.
In one case, the government said, the companies tricked banks in processing billions of dollars by disguising the gambling proceeds as payments to nonexistent online merchants. At other times, the poker companies used “payment processors,” who obtained bank accounts and then lied about the source of their revenue.
And in a third instance, the government said, the poker companies persuaded a few small, struggling community banks to process the payments “in return for multimillion-dollar investments.”
The charges are part of a crackdown on Internet gambling in the United States, where it has been illegal since 2006.
In March, Wynn Resorts said that it had entered into a partnership with PokerStars, and that they would work for passage in the United States of legislation that would define illegal Internet gambling. Lawmakers have in the past tried to pass legislation legalizing Internet gambling in the hope of reaping billions in tax revenue.