Meet Preet ‘Black Friday’ Bharara, the US attorney prosecuting online poker

destiny-davis A few minor Black Friday items to relate…

✖ Talk about a whirlwind weekend… Playboy’s January 2005 Playmate Destiny Davis (pictured left, sporting pocket 36’s) married Black Friday defendant Chad Elie on Saturday at the Little Church of the West in Las Vegas. Dunno where they were planning on honeymooning, but we hear Leavenworth is lovely this time of year.

✖ On Tuesday (19th), there will be an online seminar (webinar) entitled Black Friday Online Poker Indictments – Q&A, in which industry experts will analyze the situation and update the audience on what impact this will have on the sector going forward. Panelists scheduled to participate include (so far) Michael Caselli, Editor in Chief, iGaming Business; Peter Bertilsson, Managing Director, Ongame; Joseph M. Kelly, Ph.D., J.D, Associate, Catania Gaming Consultants; Chris Krafcik, Editor At Large, GamblingCompliance and Joe Brennan Jr., Chairman, iMEGA. To register for the webinar or to submit a question for the panel, go here. Let’s hope it’s at least as entertaining as those sleep-deprived numbskulls over at QuadJacksLive, who have been staging something of an online poker filibuster since Friday.

✖ On the same day the indictments dropped, the White House released its National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC), the goal of which is “to create an ‘Identity Ecosystem’ which will allow consumers to obtain a single credential — such as a unique piece of software on a smart phone, a smart card, or a token that generates a one-time digital password … The Identity Ecosystem would enable industry and government to both move brick-and-mortar [emphasis added] services to the online world and to create innovative new services.” Conspiracy theorists, start your engines…

preet-bharara-attorney-online-poker-smallPreet Bharara, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York who brought the Black Friday indictments, is reportedly a Bruce Springsteen fan. (Wonder if he thinks PokerStars’ founder Isai Scheinberg was ‘born to run.’) The Indian-born Bharara moved to New Jersey at the age of two, graduated from Harvard magna cum laude, and, somewhat ironically, served as a white-collar defense attorney for several years before joining the Southern District as assistant US Attorney in 2000.

Bharara took over as US Attorney for the Southern District in late 2009. Since then, his office has charged 46 defendants with insider trading offenses, resulting in 30 guilty pleas, although many of these cases were initiated long before Bharara took over. Crucially, the cases have depended to a great deal on wiretaps. As a former Southern District attorney told New York Magazine, “It’s not that wiretaps hadn’t been used before, but never in this broad a sweep. A lot of these highfliers never would have imagined that someone would be listening in on their calls. [Bharara’s] got everyone scared.” Including perhaps, the execs of certain online poker companies?

And it’s not just land-lines that Bharara’s tapping. Speaking at a panel discussion of white-collar lawyers last fall, Bharara was asked about UK law-enforcement’s decision to tap the mobile phones of stock traders. His response? “Look, it is something that not only we are thinking about, not only other law-enforcement agencies in the United States are thinking about but also other countries are thinking about. And it is only, I think, logical.”

In a 2010 discussion with the New York City Bar Association, Bharara maintained that his office had “aggressively pursued fraud whenever and wherever we have found it. And we do not intend to stop or slow down—especially now, with the economy down, public frustration up, and epic frauds surfacing with increasing frequency.” The effect of this outside pressure was not lost on UCLA law professor Stephen Bainbridge, who observed that “I’m confident they said, ‘We really need to clean up this area.’ But the fact that it was politically advantageous was certainly the icing on the cake.” (No pun intended we are sure).