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Online Poker Payment Processor Elie Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy

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March 27 (Bloomberg) -- A Las Vegas man who processed payments for online poker companies pleaded guilty to a scheme to deceive banks into processing hundreds of millions of dollars in Internet gambling transactions.

Chad Elie, 32, was one of one of 11 people charged last April by prosecutors in the office of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in a revised indictment against the founders of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker.

Prosecutors allege that after the U.S. implemented the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006, which barred banks from processing payments to offshore gambling websites, the three companies worked around the ban to continue operating in the U.S.

Elie admitted yesterday in pleading guilty to a single count of conspiracy that he served as a “payment processor” for the poker companies and lied to U.S. banks about the nature of the financial transactions they were processing.

“You are pleading guilty because you are guilty?” asked U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who is presiding over the case.

‘Conduct Was Wrong’

“Yes, your honor,” Elie said. “I know that my conduct was wrong.”

The charge Elie pleaded guilty to carries a maximum sentence of as long as five years in prison, Kaplan said. Elie has agreed to forfeit $500,000 he earned as a result of the scheme, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Goldstein said in court yesterday.

Under the terms of his plea agreement, Kaplan said Elie agreed not to seek a sentence outside of the guideline range of six to 12 months in prison. Kaplan set sentencing for Oct. 3. Elie remains free on $250,000 bond.

The case is U.S. v. Tzvetkoff, 10-CR-00336, 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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