Full Tilt Poker Chief Returns to Face Charges in US
Last week saw the Chief of Full Tilt Poker, Raymond Bitar, surrender to US authorities and plead not guilty to charges of illegal gambling and defrauding of the operator’s players.
Bitar has been working at Full Tilt’s headquarters in Dublin and until last week had avoided returning to the United States since he was charged in April last year. At a hearing which took place last week Bitar pleaded not guilty to nine criminal counts including illegal gambling, money laundering and wire fraud charges.
Online gambling became illegal in the US in 2006. Since then there has been talk about legalising internet gambling, but the latest prosecutions show that US authorities are not going to stop pursuing these charges.
Prosecutors are claiming that Full Tilt operates as a Ponzi scheme which paid its directors more than $440 million whilst defrauding players. They say that Full Tilt has taken about $1 billion from American players and estimate that around $350 million is still owed to customers in the US.
At last week’s hearing, prosecutors requested that Bitar be denied bail, however this was denied by the judge and he release was set at a $2.5 million bond, however, he will remain in jail until all the bail conditions are met.
In a statement before the hearing Bitar said that he recognises that “a lot of people are very angry at me.” He said that this is understandable and that Full Tilt “should never have gotten into a position where it could not repay player funds.” Bitar went on to say that for the last fifteen months he has “worked hard on possible solutions to get the player repaid” and that returning to the US is part of that process.
With thousands of customers still hoping to retrieve their funds, this is sure to be a case which is closely followed around the world.