Wednesday October 15,2014 : FORMER FULL TILT POKER CHIEF PLEADS GUILTY
But Bitar's failing health will keep him out of prison.
The at one time high profile and high riding former chief executive of Full Tilt Poker during its spectacular failure several years ago, Raymond Bitar (41) pleaded guilty on Monday to contravening US anti-online gambling laws, but will not go to jail due to ill health.
Bitar is suffering from severe heart failure, reports the Reuters news agency, quoting Assistant U.S. Attorney Arlo Devlin-Brown at a federal court hearing in Manhattan.
However, he will have to forfeit $40 million.
Bitar was one of 11 people, including the owners of two other online poker companies, who federal prosecutors charged in 2011 with illegal Internet gambling and related offences. He was too ill to travel to Manhattan, instead communicating with the court on a video link from a California courtroom, and telling U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska:
"I regret my actions, I know they were wrong and illegal."
Bitar was originally charged with nine criminal counts, including operation of an illegal gambling business, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy.
He pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud…and he admitted misleading his players about the safety of their money with the company, where at one point there was a $350 million gap between what Full Tilt owed customers and how much cash it had available, the court was told.
In related news, the US Attorney's office in Manhattan has confirmed that a settlement is pending in similar litigation against another at one time major online poker company, Absolute Poker.
One of the owners of the firm, Brent Beckley, was sent to prison for 14 months last year after admitting that he was complicit in deceiving banks regarding the processing of online gambling funds.
Full Tilt Poker was ultimately taken over by the world's biggest online poker company, Pokerstars, which agreed to forfeit $731 million in a 2012 settlement with U.S. authorities. That included $547 million to reimburse Full Tilt's U.S. customers.