FBI Cracks Down on Internet Gambling Companies


Elie was arrested in Las Vegas, where he was slated to appear before a federal magistrate. An attorney for Elie could not be located by ABC News.

The owners and operators of the websites all are outside of the United States and were not in custody. PokerStars is registered in the Isle of Man, Full Tilt is registered in Ireland and Absolute Poker and its associated companies originally was founded in Costa Rica but is now registered in Antigua.

Justice Department officials said they were in contact with local law enforcement agencies in those countries and Interpol to seek their arrest.

"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," said Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, where the case was filed.

Also indicted was John Campos, vice chairman of the board at SunFirst Bank, based in St. George, Utah, which allegedly processed more than $200 million for Full Tilt and PokerStars.

Campos was arrested this morning in St. George, Utah.

Members of the conspiracy allegedly agreed to invest $10 million in SunFirst, which gave them a 30 percent stake in the bank, according to the indictment. In April 2010, Campos also allegedly sought a $20,000 bonus that he allegedly called an "invoice" for "Check and Credit Card Processing Consulting."

"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," Bharara said in a prepared statement. "We allege, in their zeal to circumvent the gambling laws, the defendants also engaged in massive money laundering and bank fraud."

The indictment alleges that Elie was deeply involved in negotiating with banks to secure processing transactions.

"Chad Elie ... and his associates were, however, able to persuade the principals of certain small, local banks that were facing financial difficulties to engage in such processing," the indictment reads. "In exchange for this agreement to process gambling transactions, the banks received sizable fee income from processing poker transactions as well as promises of multi-million investments in the banks from Elie and his associates."

With the seizure of the websites, it is unclear what will happen to the funds of U.S. players who have accounts on the websites. In 2007, NETELLER, a firm that handled online gambling transactions, was charged by prosecutors from the New York U.S. Attorney's Office but entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. government and returned such funds to their owners.

The issue of Internet gambling has been debated on Capitol Hill recently, with legislation being proposed both for and against it.

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