Scott Tom ended his long run from the law on Thursday, walking into a Manhattan courtroom to face charges levied against him back in 2011.
The former fugitive, who is accused of crimes including violation of federal internet gambling and money-laundering conspiracy, pled not guilty and was released on $500,000 bail following the preliminary hearing.
Defense lawyer James Henderson told reporters after the hearing that the citizen of Saint Kitts and Nevis wants to “just get this behind him” and move on with his life.
“There’s going to be a resolution in this case quickly,” Henderson said, hinting he is negotiating a plea deal.
One of Black Friday 11
April 15, 2011 was one of the darkest days for online poker players and companies, as the federal government cracked down on the entertainment enjoyed by tens of thousands. The websites for Full Tilt, PokerStars, Absolute Poker, Ultimatebet and UB.com were seized and assets of customers were frozen.
The US Southern District of New York brought indictments against Tom and 10 other people, including Isai Scheinberg, founder of PokerStars, as well as officers of Full Tilt. Prosecutor Preet Bharara contended that these individuals had violated the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) and engaged in bank fraud and money laundering.
Congressman Barney Frank, a poker enthusiast, criticized the Department of Justice, telling The Hill at the time that the DOJ was more concerned with prosecuting poker site operators than with those responsible for the mortgage crisis and subsequent financial collapse that led to the recession of 2008.
Rags to Riches to Fugitive
Tom started the groundwork for Absolute Poker in the late 1990s with fellow frat brothers at the University of Montana. Internet poker was in its infancy and the college students thought they could produce a better product than what was being offered at the time.
The group moved to Costa Rica and created the poker site. Their hunch was correct and they saw the company turn into a billion-dollar empire. The multimillionaires decided to then sell the business to Tokwiro Enterprises in 2006.
Then in 2007, the company was rocked by a cheating scandal, as players accused the corporation of fraud. A band of amateurs discovered an account that was able to see player’s hole cards and used the information to take thousands of dollars from unsuspecting rounders.
About the same time, the US government began to take an interest in online poker and began to build a case against the top providers of the game. That led to the indictments against Tom and others.
The 37-year-old had been living in Antigua, and after six years as a fugitive, decided to voluntarily turn himself into authorities. With the crimes he is alleged to have committed, Tom could face decades in prison, but his brother-in-law, Brent Beckley, who oversaw payment processing at Absolute Poker, received just a 14-month sentence in 2012. Tom was one of two of the original 11 charged in Black Friday to surrender. Scheinberg is the lone holdout, and has expressed no interest in returning to the United States.