Founder of Full Tilt Poker Pleads Guilty to Fraud in Federal Court

ICTMN Staff
4/17/13

The founder of an Internet poker company operated from Dublin, Ireland, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy in federal court, reported the Associated Press.

Raymond Bitar of Glendora, California, founder of Full Tilt Poker, was accused last year by the U.S. government of running his business like a Ponzi scheme. On Monday he apologized via videotape from a Los Angeles courtroom for promising the money the company held in player's accounts was safe. Full Tilt Poker allegedly owed more than $300 million to players across the globe, prosecutors said.

Full Tilt Poker, previously the world's second most-popular online poker site, operated from 2004 to 2011 when the U.S. Justice Department shut it down and accused executives of bank fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling, reported CNET.com. The U.S. government charged Bitar and 10 other people connected to online gambling sites Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars and Absolute Poker in April 2011, reported IrishTimes.com. Bitar was arrested when he landed at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport in July 2011. Twelve months later, Full Tilt Poker surrendered all its assets to the Department of Justice, which then sold those assets to Poker Stars for $731 million, reported CompatiblePoker.com. Of that purchase amount, $330 million was administered by the Justice Department’s Asset Forfeiture Section to reimburse Full Tilt’s U.S. players.

Yesterday in Mahattan federal court, Bitar was sentenced to time served and ordered to forfeit $40 million.

In response to yesterday's verdict, the California Tribal Business Alliance (CTBA) released the following statement:

“This is exactly the problem that occurs without the right controls in place to ensure gaming is safe and players’ money is secure,” said CTBA Chairman Robert Smith. “As more and more states begin to look at iGaming, CTBA cannot stress enough the fact that gaming at all levels should be held to the same, very high standards set for tribal gaming agencies in California. It is in these regulations that we maintain the trust in the game and the confidence of consumers and regional governments to promote a safe, fair and mutually beneficial gaming industry.”

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