The recent arrest of the chief executive of the Full Tilt Poker group, Ray Bitar is the latest development in the Full Tilt saga which began on “Black Friday” in April 2011. On that date in 2011 FBI agents closed down three online poker sites which they claimed had been operating illegally by offering their services to gamblers resident in the United States.
Along with Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker and PokerStars were involved in the federal crackdown and their websites were shut down. Many online poker sites stopped offering their services to American online gamblers after the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was passed but Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker and PokerStars continued to aim their online poker services at players in the United States until their domain names were seized in April 2011.Some months ago Ray Bitar, the Full Tilt Poker CEO issued an apology to the players on the site who are owed an estimated 350 million dollars worldwide.
Federal prosecutors claim that Full Tilt Poker concealed the company’s financial situation and that it was operating like a “Ponzi scheme”. At the time of the initial federal crackdown on the three leading online poker sites, 11 people were indicted on charges of money laundering, fraud and of operating a “Ponzi scheme” and to date six of those indicted have pleaded guilty. Nelson Burtnick who is still avoiding arrest by the FBI is the only other employee from Full Tilt to face charges. Bitar also avoided arrest by the FBI by remaining in Ireland where Full Tilt was based until last week when he arrived voluntarily in New York where he was arrested in John F. Kennedy airport.
At a later federal court hearing in New York he pleaded not guilty to the charges against him and was released on bail of over 2 million dollars. He repeated his earlier apology to those who are owed money by Full Tilt and said that he was doing all he could to see that they were repaid. He also claimed that his return to the United States was part of the process of seeing that players on the Full Tilt website are repaid.If Bitar is convicted of all the charges against him he faces almost 150 years in prison.