The ongoing saga surrounding former Full Tilt Poker CEO Raymond Bitar has taken more turns than a week’s worth of Days of Our Lives episodes.
The latest development comes as a little victory of sorts for the disgraced FTP founder after a decision was meted down allowing him to be released on bail amounting to $2.5 million in personal recognizance bond. The amount will be posted by Bitar, who has agreed to pledge cash and properties, including one warehouse he owns in San Dimas, California, to go with a number of friends and family members who will be shouldering a certain percentage of the monetary load.
Once the bond has been met, Bitar will now be allowed to return to his home in California where he will be under electronic monitoring before he goes back on trial.
Bitar went back to the US from Ireland last week to the face charges that was levied against him 15 months ago during what is now known in the industry as Black Friday. Bitar was charged with conspiracy to violate the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), conspiracy to commit bank fraud and money laundering. When he was arrested last week by the FBI, a new superseding indictment was unsealed, revealing additional charges against him that included operating a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme, and conspiracy to defraud customers of Full Tilt of an amount reaching almost $300 million. If found guilty on all charges, Bitar faces a maximum of 145 years in prison.
The $2.5 million bond on Bitar was met with resistance by the prosecution, who argued that given the new charges, the man was a “flight risk” if he was set free. Even the DOJ argued that if Bitar was released on bail, it would give him an opportunity to “flee to Mexico” where the terms of the bail order would permit him to reside.
Despite the arguments to keeping Bitar behind bars, Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman ruled that bail could be allowed and set at $2.5m, with at least $1 million to be secured in cash. Today, U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer was quoted by Bloomberg echoing Judge Freeman’s decision, saying that the increased amount would ensure Bitar would return to court.
“I think the defendant can be fairly released on bail but the terms must have some vigor to them,” he said, before adding, “he has one million reasons to return to court.”
Lederer and Furst look to have their charges dismissed
Meanwhile, Full Tilt Poker co-founders Howard Lederer and Rafe Furst recently filed motions to dismiss the civil charges levied against them. In the case of Lederer, the motion argued that no evidence has been provided to prove that he was personally involved in defrauding Full Tilt customers AND that the company’s activities did not fall under the IGBA’s definition of operating an illegal gambling business.
According to the motion, specific and factual allegations against the FTP director were ‘nowhere to be found’ in the government’s case against Lederer and that he had a hand in operating the global ponzi scheme that was operating under the clout of an online poker room. “Although the government alleges that Lederer participated in a scheme to defraud FTP’s customers, specific factual allegations against him are nowhere to be found,” the filing stated as quoted by Pokerfuse.com.
The motion also pointed out that the Illegal Gambling Business Act (IGBA) cannot be used as a law in this instance, because it “has never been successfully applied solely to poker clubs, let alone internet poker companies headquartered and operated entirely abroad.”
The only allegation with regards to his participation or knowledge of the alleged fraud against FTP customers stem from employee drafted email templates that basically said that the customers money were safe and secure despite the belief that nearly all of them have already been flushed down. “That is the only allegation relating to Lederer’s participation in or knowledge of the alleged fraud against FTP’s customers,” states the motion to dismiss.
Of the four members indicted by the Full Tilt Poker mess, only Chris “Jesus” Ferguson has yet to file a motion to dismiss charges. Nevertheless, Ferguson is expected to follow in Lederer and Fusrt’s lead soon enough, possible within the next few days.