Franzen Pleads Guilty to Internet Gambling Charges, Cooperates With U.S.

Bradley Franzen, accused of helping to disguise Internet gambling payments, pleaded guilty to three counts, including taking part in conspiracies to commit bank fraud and money-laundering.

Franzen, 41, of Illinois and Costa Rica, was one of 11 people charged with violating U.S. laws prohibiting Internet gambling in a case filed by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office. Franzen is cooperating with prosecutors, the office said in a letter.

Franzen told U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathaniel Fox today that he owns a company that helps merchants process customer payments. After an Internet poker operator contacted him in 2009 to help handle checks from U.S. customers, he lied to banks and created fake companies and websites to hide the payments, Franzen said.

“I knew that U.S. law prohibits this,” Franzen said.

Franzen faces as long as 30 years in prison when he is sentenced on Aug. 26, Fox said. He can seek a shorter sentence under his cooperation agreement, prosecutors said. Franzen also will forfeit an unspecified amount of money earned in the scheme, Fox said.

Sam Schmidt, Franzen’s lawyer, declined to comment.

Bharara’s office on April 15 announced an expanded a indictment against the founders of PokerStars, based on the Isle of Man; Full Tilt Poker, based in Ireland; and Costa Rica-based Absolute Poker.

The companies are accused of using fraudulent means to circumvent federal laws and “trick” banks into processing payments on their behalf. The government seeks at least $3 billion in forfeitures and penalties.

The case is U.S. v. Tzvetkoff, 10-CR-336, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story: Patricia Hurtado in New York at pathurtado@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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