On Tuesday, the US Department of Justice made good on its earlier threats by filing a second amended complaint in the civil case against the Black Friday defendants. The filing shines new light on the financial dealings of Full Tilt Poker (FTP) execs and also opens up a fresh legal front in the case by charging the defendants with violations of the 1961 Travel Act, a federal statute that bars the use of the mail or “any facility in interstate or foreign commerce” to distribute the proceeds from certain criminal acts, including those related to “any business enterprise involving gambling … in violation of the laws of the State in which they are committed.” The complaint specifically cites violations of New York law, but also laws of other states “including but not limited to” California, Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon and Utah.
The introduction of the Travel Act charges had been anticipated as a way of defusing defendants’ arguments that the DoJ’s case against them had been seriously damaged by legal rulings issued since the original Black Friday charges were laid – specifically, the DoJ’s reinterpretation of the Wire Act to apply solely to sports betting, and the recent US District Court ‘DiCristina ruling’ that poker doesn’t constitute gambling under the Illegal Gambling Business Act (IGBA). Proceeds from activities that run afoul of the Travel Act are subject to forfeiture claims, which brings us to…
The complaint also introduces new forfeiture claims against former Full Tilt Poker (FTP) directors Ray Bitar and Howard Lederer. The complaint cites Lederer as having received at least $44.3m in deposits from FTP to his bank accounts between December 2006 and September 2011, bolstering earlier claims that Lederer and other FTP execs continued to pay themselves significant sums long after Black Friday, despite the knowledge that their financial house of cards was about to collapse (and players’ deposits along with it). The complaint also details how Lederer spent some of this windfall, including $10m on the construction of a “luxury home” and guest house in Las Vegas, $371k into a pension plan and hundreds of thousands more on flash cars, including a Maserati Gran Turismo and a 1965 Shelby Cobra. (Frankly, the mere fact that the legendary Caroll Shelby’s damn good name has been even temporarily tarnished by association in this debacle is sufficient grounds for breaking out the thumb screws, but we digress…)
The DoJ is making forfeiture claims against FTP’s former brain trust as follows: Bitar (“not less than” $40.8m); Lederer ($42.5m); Chris ‘Jesus’ Ferguson ($42m) and Rafe Furst ($11.7m). The DoJ is also seeking to have the defendants foot the government’s court costs. Bitar is currently free on bail awaiting trial, while Lederer and Ferguson remain, for the moment, free to roam about the US of A in irony-free Hawaiian shirts and comically oversized cowboy hats.
In related news, as PokerStars preps to relaunch the newly acquired FTP by Nov. 6, it has begun to advertise for help in running the operation. Rational FT Services, a new outfit now occupying the Dublin offices formerly occupied by FTP parent Pocket Kings, has posted listings for marketing and IT staff. Anyone so inclined can check out the listings for themselves here.