Online Poker Site Running Ponzi Scheme, DOJ Says

Sep 20, 2011 2:34pm

Online gambling site Full Tilt Poker, shut down in April by federal authorities, was running a $440 million Ponzi scheme, the Justice Department announced today, filing new charges against the directors of the company.

“Full Tilt was not a legitimate poker company, but a global Ponzi scheme,” Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement.

The site told players their gambling accounts were secure and available for withdrawal at any time when in fact, “Full Tilt Poker did not maintain funds sufficient to repay all players,” Bharara said.   The operation allegedly used player funds to pay board members and other owners more than $440 million since April 2007.

The complaint names board members Raymond Bitar, Howard Lederer, Christopher Ferguson and Rafael Furst as defendants. Calls to Full Tilt Poker seeking comment were not immediately returned.

“Full Tilt insiders lined their own pockets with funds picked from the pockets of their most loyal customers while blithely lying to both players and the public alike about the safety and security of the money deposited with the company,” according to the DOJ statement.

On April 15, 2011, the Justice Department filed a complaint for money laundering, fraud, and violating the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act against 11 individuals who ran PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker.

The Justice Department’s shutdown of online poker sites has affected millions of poker players and the poker industry.

In June, Phil Ivey, one of the world’s best poker players, announced he was suing his sponsor, Full Tilt, in June for $150 million and boycotted this year’s World Series of Poker (WSOP).

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