Saturday January 17,2015 : POKER PRO DARREN WOODS TO PAY A HEFTY PRICE FOR FRAUD (Update)
15 months jail-time could be boosted by six more years if Woods does not pay back GBPO 1 million.
The fraud cases against on line poker pro Darren Woods (29) has come to a conclusion in the Sheffield Crown Courts , England, with the poker pro paying a heavy price for his lack of integrity
He has been sentenced to 15 months imprisonment which could be increased by six years if he does not pay his victims back GBP 1 million within the next six months.
Reporting on the sentencing, the Grimsby Telegraph newspaper noted that Woods is alleged to have made at least GBP1 million profit through "rigging" poker games and "cheating" other players and poker providers.
He was accused of masterminding a poker fraud in which he played online as several different gamblers at the same time and additionally racked up lucrative commission payments from online poker providers.
Police investigators believe that he fraudulently made far more than the one million pounds agreed in the case, with the Crown prosecutor pointing out that Woods has assets well in excess of GBP1.4 million.
A total of GBP 911,217 had already been restrained after police investigations and, of that, it was ordered that GBP 283,673 be paid as compensation to a Gibraltar-based gaming company, to be used to recompense players who were victims of his collusion offences in online games.
The poker pro's father was involved in laundering GBP 230,000 linked to his son's attempts to fleece the system and other punters, the court heard.
Woods initially challenged the 13 fraud offences that allegedly occurred between January 2007 and January 2012, but part way through his trial, he changed his pleas to guilty on nine counts.
His father, Morteza Gharoom (56) pleaded guilty on money laundering. He was given a six-month suspended prison sentence, with no conditions, and will have GBP 18,910 confiscated from him after this sum was said to have been his benefit from the scam.
The prosecution said that there was no doubt that Woods intended to indulge in criminal and fraudulent activity; he bought a number of private online networks to disguise his identity and to allow him to set up accounts in the names of others. He also bought and used a number of computers in a bid to mislead gambling company security systems.
Sentencing Woods, Judge Paul Watson QC said: "You are an intelligent, able and even gifted young man but you turned your talents towards defrauding online gambling companies and cheating other players of online poker.
"In individual games, other people playing against you stood to lose money because the odds had been rigged in your favour by the creation of multiple identities which were undisclosed to other players.
"Cheating undermines confidence in the recreational gambling industry.
"Those who might choose to gamble recreationally may be deterred if the system is unfairly balanced in favour of other players by such conduct as yours."
Representing Woods, advocate Gordon Stables promised that "…all of those who feel they have lost out will be compensated, every last one."
He added that Woods had effectively destroyed his reputation within the online poker world, saying:
This would come from money to be confiscated from Woods.
"He will not, in future, be welcome at live tournaments. He used to attend many. He will not, in the future, be welcome on online gaming sites. He will not, in future, receive the sponsorship that he benefited from in the past."
Stables also pointed out that his client has also lost the opportunity to earn money from coaching other poker players.
Interviewed shortly before sentencing, Woods told the Grimsby Telegraph that he had been a victim, not a criminal, and felt that he had been unjustly dealt with despite his guilty pleas.
Admitting that he had colluded with other players, he said it was only because other players were doing the same.
Woods complained to the newspaper that he stood to lose more than GBP 1.1 million spread over 50 online poker accounts, which he had built from an initial stake of GBP 20 from playing since age18, as well as various other monies that had been seized by the police under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
He added that he intended to leave the country after he had served his expected prison sentence because he no longer trusted the police.
"It will be difficult for me to get a job," Woods said. "Who is going to employ someone with a criminal record for fraud?"