Earthquake in the Poker World
and Full Tilt Poker
Shut Down by FBI
The online poker world has just experienced a massive earthquake that will shake this industry to its core. Four websites of the largest companies: PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker
and UB have been shut down and seized by the F.B.I on charges of bank fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling offenses. Charges against them are up to $3billion.
Millions of online poker players have been affected by the PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker shut down, whose websites display an FBI notice. US Players have been blocked from playing for real money at both PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. However, non-US players can continue to play.
While the announcement has left the poker world reeling in shock, it would appear that there have been some decidedly shady dealings occurring which have resulted in the charges.
Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York
, along with Janice Fedarcyk, Assistant-Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, unsealed an indictment charging the founders and payment processors of the above poker sites
with a variety of offenses.
There is also a civil complaint against the above poker companies, their payment processors, five internet domains, as well as 75 bank accounts used by the poker companies and their payment processors.
Online poker’s status has long been a gray area in the US – something that many poker companies capitalized on by exploiting loopholes in the system. However, it would appear those loopholes are now well and truly closed.
So far there have been two arrests: Chad Elie (31) who is a payment processor for PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker that shut down to US players was arrested in Las Vegas, Nevada
; and John Campos (57) who is the vice chairman of the board and part owner of SunFirst Bank. Campos was arrested in Utah.
Allegedly, Campos illegally processed payments from poker companies in return for a personal payoff and investment in the bank. Elie is believed to have set-up the transaction, along with similar transactions with other banks. Payment processors like Elie have also been accused of setting up dummy companies and generating fraudulent transactions to disguise poker company payments from banks.
US Attorney Bharara made a statement in which she announced that US Banks have been “tricked” or “bribed” into channeling payments and profits to online poker companies in breach of US laws.
According to Australia’s Courier-Mail, there may yet be another sting in the tail of this woeful story. The Australian publication alleges that Daniel Tzvetkoff, a former payment processor, may have assisted the US government in their historic takedown. Allegedly, he used to operate payments for large gambling sites, making a fortune doing so. But apparently he got greedy and ripped off the gambling companies for $100 million.
Having fallen out of favor, Tzvetkoff made the mistake of traveling to the US. The FBI received an “anonymous” tip off on Tzvetkoff’s location and he was arrested. Because of his wealth he was considered a flight risk and denied bail. Now, mysteriously, he is out on bail and the gambling companies are the ones in the dock.
Coincidence? Perhaps not. But it could mean that Tzvetkoff could become the most hated man in poker. After the US government that is…
------------------------------------ Although Full Tilt Poker shut down and PokerStars shut down access to US players, there are lots of US poker sites still accepting US players - as recommended by Cardschat.