Days for the profitable business of online gambling seems like over as FBI and US Attorney’s Office charged the founder of three biggest Internet poker web sites with bank fraud, money laundering, and illegal gambling offenses. The sites are – PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker. Among the charged are – Isai Scheinberg and Paul Tate of PokerStars, Raymond Bitar and Nelson Burtnick of Full Tilt Poker and Scott Tom and Brent Beckley of Absolute Poker.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney PREET BHARARA said: “As charged, 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. Moreover, as we allege, in their zeal to circumvent the gambling laws, the defendants also engaged in massive money laundering and bank fraud. 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.”
FBI Assistant Director in Charge JANICE K. FEDARCYK said: “These defendants, knowing full well that their business with U.S. customers and U.S. banks was illegal, tried to stack the deck. They lied to banks about the true nature of their business. Then, some of the defendants found banks willing to flout the law for a fee. The defendants bet the house that they could continue their scheme, and they lost.”
The feds have seized 5 Internet domain names and issued restraining order against 75 bank accounts. On October 13, 2006, the United States enacted the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (“UIGEA”) which made it illegal to accept money from unlawful online gambling. The companies found ways to circumvent the law and keep getting the payments.
Because U.S. banks and credit card issuers were largely unwilling to process their payments, the Poker Companies allegedly used fraudulent methods to circumvent federal law and trick these institutions into processing payments on their behalf. For example, defendants ISAI SCHEINBERG and PAUL TATE of PokerStars, RAYMOND BITAR and NELSON BURTNICK of Full Tilt Poker, and SCOTT TOM and BRENT BECKLEY of Absolute Poker, arranged for the money received from U.S. gamblers to be disguised as payments to hundreds of non-existent online merchants purporting to sell merchandise such as jewelry and golf balls. Of the billions of dollars in payment transactions that the Poker Companies tricked U.S. banks into processing, approximately one-third or more of the funds went directly to the Poker Companies as revenue through the “rake” charged to players on almost every poker hand played online.Source: www.fbi.gov
The indicment filed in New York, is seeking $3 billion in money laundering penalties and forfeiture from the defendants.