Former Full Tilt Poker CEO Ray Bitar has turned himself over to US authorities and was arrested on Monday morning at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York confirmed the arrest in a press release issued the same day.
Bitar was charged with gambling, bank fraud and money laundering on April 15, 2011 as one of 11 men indicted in relation to the US Department of Justice’s ‘Black Friday’ clampdown on online poker. Those charges were altered in a “Superseding Indictment” on Monday containing nine counts accusing Bitar of defrauding Full Tilt Poker’s users. They total up to a maximum 145 years in prison and consist of ‘Conspiracy to Violate UIGEA’, ‘Violation of UIGEA’, ‘Operation of Illegal Gambling Business’, ‘Conspiracy to Defraud Banks’, ‘Money Laundering Conspiracy, Promotion’ and ‘Wire Fraud’.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “With today’s arrest and the new charges brought against him, Raymond Bitar will now be held criminally responsible for the alleged multi-million fraud he perpetrated on his U.S. customers. The indictment alleges how Bitar bluffed his player-customers and fixed the game against them as part of an international Ponzi scheme that left players empty-handed.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk said: “Bitar and Full Tilt Poker persisted in soliciting U.S. gamblers long after such conduct was outlawed. As alleged, Bitar has already been charged with defrauding banks to conceal the illegal gambling. Now he stands accused of defrauding Full Tilt’s customers by concealing its cash-poor condition and paying off early creditors with deposits from later customers. The on-line casino became an Internet Ponzi scheme.”
The news of Bitar’s arrest broke on TwoPlusTwo poker forum via a reportedly leaked internal email from Bitar to staff in Dublin, Ireland. In the email Bitar claims his surrender to US authorities is necessary to help facilitate the sale of Full Tilt Poker to PokerStars.
“We have all worked hard over the last 15 months to preserve Full Tilt’s assets and potential in order to provide for the repayment of all players, and that continues to be our top priority. It is as important as ever that we all do everything possible to make that happen and, hopefully our deal with Poker Stars will very soon make our goal a reality. My return to the US is part of this process,” wrote Bitar.
Head to the TwoPlusTwo thread to read more.
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