Black Friday case against Campos and Elie likely to go to trial in March
The federal court case against indicted Black Friday principals John Campos and Chad Elie will likely come to trial on March 12, 2012. The two men are accused of assisting online poker companies like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker process payments to and from US players — Campos in his former capacity as vice-chairman of Utah’s SunFirst Bank, and Elie as an independent payment processor. But Ira Rubin, another payment processor among the 11 men indicted on Black Friday, will apparently not be coming to trial, as Forbes’ Nathan Vardi reports that Rubin’s lawyer has reached an agreement in principle with the US Department of Justice.
At a hearing in Manhattan on Thursday to dismiss the case against Campos and Elie, US District Judge Lewis Kaplan listened politely to the defendants’ arguments – which included the theory that poker isn’t legally considered gambling – before commenting that he thought it was “extraordinarily unlikely that the entire indictment will be dismissed.” However, Kaplan admitted that the hearing was “interesting and helpful” and he was curious as to “whether there are 12 potential jurors in New York in this environment who think poker is not gambling or have no opinion on it.”
Campos’ attorney Frederick Hafetz tried to persuade Kaplan that the defendants should be exempt from prosecution for internet gambling, much as the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) absolves internet service providers from blame if US players use their digital pipes to access gambling firms. But if the DoJ’s response to Campos and Elie’s legal arguments hadn’t already made their position clear, Assistant US Attorney Arlo Devlin-Brown told Kaplan that such absolution did not apply to companies that knowingly processed payments for online gambling operators.
Kaplan agreed with Devlin-Brown, saying he couldn’t swallow the “premise of exemption of financial service providers,” which was “only the beginning of my problems with [the defendants’] argument.” Kaplan also rubbished the suggestion that if SunFirst couldn’t be found liable, then Campos should be similarly immunized, a theory that left Kaplan wondering aloud how Campos’ attorney could make such a “leap.” If there was any hope left in the hearts of the defendants as to Kaplan’s sympathies, it likely died after the judge commented that “the whole point of the [UIGEA] was to wipe out internet gambling in the US” and that the specific absence of the word ‘poker’ from the 1970 Illegal Gambling Business Act (IGBA) didn’t mean much, as it was a “non-exhaustive list.”
In other Black Friday news, a payment processor called Autoscribe Corporation has agreed to give up any claim to about $8k held on account at Citibank seized by the DoJ earlier this year. On the opposite side of that coin, FTP board members Howard Lederer and Rafe Furst have followed the lead of Ray Bitar and Chris Ferguson by laying claim to certain seized accounts (containing unspecified amounts) under the Supplemental Rules for Admiralty and Maritime Claims. And the bad beats go on…