Ever since Black Friday (April 15) last year, poker news has been a somewhat depressing experience for the players. In the last week, though, a few things have happened worth noting.
First, the SDNY granted extensions to the Black Friday defendants (all except Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, no reason given) to May 20, 2012. Speculation is that this is to allow more time for GBT (Groupe Bernard Tapie) to finalize the purchase of Full Tilt–which, if you’ve been following the press releases, is now three months past GBT’s original timeline. To be fair, Absolute Poker and UB were also given extensions, but overwhelming consensus is that those sites are bankrupt anyway.
Second, Chad Elie settled his case by pleading guilty to lesser charges. Back in February, the pre-trial hearings concluded with Judge Lewis Kaplan refusing to dismiss any of the charges against John Campos or Elie–this after both sides filed detailed motions with the court. Bloomberg reported that Chad Elie, a Las Vegas payment processor for the poker sites, pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy. The maximum sentence is a range of 6 to 12 months in prison, and he agreed to forfeit $500,000 he earned from the “scheme.” The final sentencing will take place October 3rd. In Haley Hintze’s post on the news, she opined that perhaps Elie had agreed to turn states’ evidence in the John Campos case and/or others. But instead, we learned:
Third, John Campos, the former vice chairman of SunFirst bank in St. George, Utah, agreed to plead guilty to a single misdemeanor charge. The report of choice this time comes from Forbes, who characterizes it as a desperate move by the DOJ. While this plea maintains the DOJ’s batting average in terms of guilty pleas (6 out of 6 so far), the fact that they have knocked the charges down to a single misdemeanor is a clear indication that the DOJ would have a problem proving their case in court.
It is not clear if the Campos plea is official yet, as it hasn’t been reported that a judge accepted the plea. But once that happens, all of the money men indicted on Black Friday will have settled their cases. Of those that remain, none have been arrested. Scott Tom, of Absolute Poker shame, has already seen his stepbrother (Brent Beckley) plead guilty to conspiracy charges in December and faces up to 30 years in prison (though many reports predict 18 months). Beckley will be sentenced in April. The remaining defendants are Ray Bitar and Nelson Burtnick of Full Tilt, and Isai Scheinberg and Paul Tate of PokerStars.
Given that the actual payment processors are being slapped on the wrist with misdemeanors, it’s unlikely that the DOJ can successfully prosecute the outstanding cases. None of the remaining defendants are likely to be arrested in any case. It’s speculated some are living in countries without extradition treaties, and those who aren’t can’t be extradited anyway, because that can only take place if the crime is also illegal in the country of residence. But don’t expect the cases to go away any time soon. The DOJ will shift focus away from defendants in order to secure its control over any remaining cash. That means the Lederer, Ferguson, and Furst cases are up next. And though May 20th isn’t that far away, keep in mind that date has been pushed back three times already.
In unrelated news: more shennanigans afoot in the Epic Poker League meltdown. While the incompetence at Full Tilt can make your blood boil, the stupidity surrounding Epic Poker League will simply have you scratching your head. Here are the highlights: EPL, which co-founder Annie Duke promoted as having a long-term financial plan, is broke after staging just three events. So broke they “postponed” their fourth tournament and stiffed their employees for at least their last paycheck. Federated Sports and Gaming (EPL’s parent) then tried to use funds from the Heartland Poker Tour (the company FSG failed to pay for after entering into a purchase agreement) as operating capital to pay FSG executive salaries (because, you know, who cares about employees) all while FSG filed for bankruptcy. Card Player published a story about the fiasco, which prompted Jeffrey Pollack, FSG’s executive chairman, to step in between the fan and the fast-moving feces and accuse CP of irresponsible journalism for not getting his side of the story first. This prompted Card Player to publish a follow-up piece about the shameless cash-grab, including HPT’s protest against FSG’s plans to continue to pay themselves using HPT’s “cash collateral.”
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