Absolute Poker founder pleads guilty to bank fraud and money laundering
20 December 2011
Absolute Poker co-founder Brent Beckley entered a guilty plea today in response to charges of bank fraud, money laundering, illegal gambling offenses and violating the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) filed by the Department of Justice on April 15.
Under the terms of the deal, Beckley pled guilty to one count of bank fraud and wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to engage in unlawful Internet gambling. Prosecutors are recommending a prison sentence between 12 and 18 months. Beckley has also agreed to forfeit $300,000.
Beckley, 31, had been living in Costa Rica. He voluntarily returned to the U.S. yesterday to make his guilty plea.
Sentencing is scheduled for April 19.
"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," said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara immediately after the indictments were handed down on what is know as "Black Friday" in online poker circles. "More over, as we allege, in their zeal to circumvent the gambling law, 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."
PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg and Full Tilt Poker founder Ray Bitar were also indicted in April, and several bank accounts belonging to Absolute, Full Tilt and PokerStars were seized.
Since the indictments were issued, Absolute Poker, UB.com and PokerStars stopped accepting U.S. play. Full Tilt stopped accepting U.S. play as well, and eventually shut down its operations when Alderney suspended the company's license because it did not have enough money to pay its players.
Full Tilt is in the process of being acquired by Groupe Bernard Tapie (GBT). If the sale is completed, GBT will be responsible for returning money to players outside of the U.S., and the DOJ will be responsible for returning money to American players.
PokerStars has already returned the money it owed American players when it pulled out of the U.S. market. The status of money owed to Absolute Poker and UB players is unclear.