Full Tilt CEO Ray Bitar surrenders to US authorities
Tuesday, 3 July 2012
Ray Bitar, the Chief Executive Officer of Full Tilt Poker, has surrendered to US authorities. The 40-year-old was arrested at New York's JFK Airport yesterday and later pleaded not guilty to federal charges at a hearing in Manhattan.
The 40-year-old was originally indicted in April of 2011 on five counts that included money laundering, violating the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) and operating an illegal gambling business. The latest superseding indictment was unsealed yesterday and charges Bitar with nine-counts including operating a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme.
In a statement released late yesterday, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, “With today’s arrest and the new charges brought against him, Raymond Bitar will now be held criminally responsible for the alleged multi-million fraud he perpetrated on his U.S. customers. The indictment alleges how Bitar bluffed his player-customers and fixed the game against them as part of an international Ponzi scheme that left players empty-handed.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk added, “Bitar and Full Tilt Poker persisted in soliciting U.S. gamblers long after such conduct was outlawed. As alleged, Bitar has already been charged with defrauding banks to conceal the illegal gambling. Now he stands accused of defrauding Full Tilt’s customers by concealing its cash-poor condition and paying off early creditors with deposits from later customers. The on-line casino become an Internet Ponzi scheme.”
Bitar had earlier sent an e-mail to Full Tilt Poker employees in Dublin confirming that he had returned to the United States in order to ‘deal with civil and criminal cases’ pending against him in New York.
“We have all worked hard over the last 15 months to preserve Full Tilt’s assets and potential in order to provide for the repayment of all players and that continues to be our top priority,” read the e-mail from Bitar.
“It is as important as ever that we all do everything possible to make that happen and hopefully our deal with Poker Stars will very soon make our goal a reality. My return to the United States is part of this process. I am particularly grateful to all of you here in Dublin for your hard work, patience and understanding during this difficult time. I believe that your hard work and dedication should not go unrecognised and we have made arrangements for Poker Stars to guarantee all July salaries. You should, therefore, have no concern about coming to work during this period. After that, we expect that your employment contracts will be assumed by the buyer of the company’s assets.”
Bitar also released the following statement late yesterday, “"Today, I returned voluntarily to the U.S. from Full Tilt’s headquarters in Ireland to face the charges against me. I know that a lot of people are very angry at me. I understand why. Full Tilt should never have gotten into a position where it could not repay player funds. For the last 15 months, I have worked hard on possible solutions to get the players repaid. Returning today is part of that process. I believe we are near the end of a very long road, and I will continue to do whatever is required to get the players repaid. I hope that will happen soon."