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Source: Feds Wanted Reason to go After Full Tilt Poker Pros

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:
Sep/22/2011
Full Tilt Poker

A source close to Gambling911.com tells us that the US Justice Department originally considered going after poker pros who were tied to Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars but chose not to, fearing a public relations backlash.  That all changed Tuesday when the Feds named pros Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson as defendants in a civil complaint, alleging they were part of an elaborate ponzi scheme.

“The US Justice Department was right,” our source relayed.   “They knew any actions taken against big name pros would result in extensive mainstream media coverage that might otherwise make the US Government look bad.  But by implicating these pros in a so-called “ponzi scheme”, it’s seen as a game changer.  The public would be less likely to sympathize, and so far the Justice Department was right.”

Since the announcement was made on Tuesday, most of the poker message boards have included various interpretations of “Off With Their Heads”, directed at Ferguson and Lederer. 

Both men represented and are said to be stake holders in Full Tilt Poker, the one time second largest online poker site in the world.  Its co-founders were charged on April 15 with money laundering and bank fraud.  Since leaving the US, FTP has yet to pay back customers residing in the States.  The US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York contends that Ferguson, et al. used funds belonging to players to pay their own exorbitant salaries. 

The United States Attorney Preet Bharara issued a statement: 

“Full Tilt was not a legitimate poker company, but a global Ponzi scheme. As a result of our enforcement actions this alleged self-dealing scheme came to light. Not only did the firm orchestrate a massive fraud against the U.S. banking system, as previously alleged, Full Tilt also cheated and abused its own players to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. As described, Full Tilt insiders lined their own pockets with funds picked from the pockets of their most loyal customers while blithely lying to both players and the public alike about the safety and security of the money deposited with the company.”

Our source added:  “The Government is trying to spin that Howard and other three owners stole the money in a Ponzi scheme.  But that is just not true.  They made terrible business decisions.

“Remember WITHOUT SEIZURES the last 4 years, FTP is incredibly profitable, probably more profitable that any other business in the US.   This 443 Million could most likely be the rake since FTP started or the gross profit.  And business people who run a VERY profitable business should be paid a lot of money.

“The problem was the seizures.  And when the Government started taking down payment processors in 2006, that was a HIT, a direct loss.  And FTP would continue to make good on the money, or so it seemed. 

“I truly believe that if there were never any bank account seizures before Black Friday, that FTP would have been able to survive and pay the players because they would have never had trouble finding a processor cause no shortfall to ever occur.

“Sometimes the bank would freeze the money and not the DOJ.  These losses kept adding and adding up.” 

Our source also alleges that it was Full Tilt Poker co-founder Nelson Burtnick, not Raymond Bitar, who is behind the shortfall in cash.

“And the shortfall was 100 percent Nelson Burtnick’s fault.  He orchestrated and probably got Ray’s ok, but 100 percent Nelson Burtnick was behind this. 

“The problem was, the owners and shareholders kept getting paid even when the players funds kept getting seized.  This is the KEY business decision that caused this problem. 

“The Government is spinning this so the public can blame the owners, when it’s the DOJ who really has most of the player funds.”

- Chris Costigan, Gambling911.com Publisher

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