Full Tilt CEO Arrested, Poker Room’s Future in Jeopardy Again?

July 6, 2012

The news of Full Tilt poker CEO’s arrest has been doing rounds in poker circuits early this week. The chief executive officer of the online poker room, Raymond Bitar, was arrested by the Federal law enforcement officials on Monday, July 2. The arrest was made in relation to the $430 million Ponzi scheme that the poker site was accused of last year. Bitar was arrested at the JFK International Airport in New York.

Charges against Bitar

According to reports, Bitar had voluntarily surrendered himself to the authorities at the airport, following his return from the Full Tilt Poker headquarters in Ireland to face the charges. Bitar had allegedly defrauded his poker customers by making false promises about the security of their deposits. The charges slapped against him include bank fraud, money laundering and gambling offenses.

In June 2011, after the Black Friday of poker, Full Tilt had only $6 million in assets, but owed over $300 million to the players registered on the site. According to official reports, Bitar had siphoned  players’ winnings of over $430 million to the owners and board members of Full Tilt.

Janice K Fedaryck, FBI’s assistant director in charge, had stated that Bitar and Full Tilt continued to woo gamblers in the US to play on their site, long after online gambling activities in the country were outlawed. Now, Bitar is charged with concealing the poor financial condition of the site and use the  funds from their newest members to pay off the earlier creditors. So even when the site was having legal troubles and was in a unstable situation, Bitar had encouraged poker players in the US to gamble on their site, ensuring that their money would be safe there.

Initial Charges on Full Tilt Owners

Last year, 11 people were arrested in connection with the fraud and money laundering activities that were carried through Full Tilt poker. Raymond Bitar was the 7th defendant to be arrested following the initial indictment. The remaining 10 people have pleaded guilty and 9 are still awaiting the sentence. One of them, John Campos, was given a 3-month prison sentence in June this year.

Trying to Repay Players

In a statement he made recently, Bitar said that he understood why so many people are angry with him. He also said that in the past 15 months, after the Black Friday, he had been trying very hard to find solutions to repay the money he owed to the poker players. But now, the indictment has Bitar accused of bluffing players and draining their money, as a part of a global Ponzi scheme. He is now facing criminal charges and is responsible for the alleged multi-million dollar scam he pulled on his poker clients in the US.

In his statement, Bitar also mentioned that they would be paying the money back to the players with the PokerStars deal. The buyer, PokerStars, would also be taking care of the staff salaries and hopefully be settling all debts by July this year.