Full Tilt Poker A Ponzi Scheme According To U.S. Attorney
By DAVID B. CARUSO
09/20/11 03:59 PM ET
NEW YORK — An Internet poker company that was blocked from operating in the U.S. in the spring as part of an online gambling crackdown was “not a legitimate poker company, but a global Ponzi scheme,” federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
The popular Full Tilt Poker website illegally raided player accounts to fund operations and make lavish payments to its owners, Justice Department lawyers said in a revised civil lawsuit filed in New York.
Over four years, the company used $444 million in player money to pay board members, including well-known professional poker players Christopher Ferguson and Howard Lederer, investigators said.
The poker site had promised players that their accounts were protected and wouldn’t be touched. But authorities say that, as of March, the company had only $60 million left in its bank accounts to cover the $390 million it owed to players. It routinely mingled player money with its own finances, and took cash from some customers to pay out winnings due to others, prosecutors said.
“Full Tilt was not a legitimate poker company, but a global Ponzi scheme,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. “Not only did the firm orchestrate a massive fraud against the U.S. banking system, as previously alleged, Full Tilt also cheated and abused its own players to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.”