Online Poker Defendant Campos Pleads Guilty to Misdemeanor

Former SunFirst Bank official John Campos, charged with six felonies for allegedly processing payments for illegal Internet poker sites, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor banking charge.

Campos, 58, a former part-owner and vice chairman of the St. George, Utah, bank, entered his guilty plea in a hearing in Manhattan federal court today. U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, declined to accept the plea, asking prosecutors why he should approve a deal under which Campos would face no more than one year in prison.

“Why should I do that?” Kaplan asked. Campos was set to go on trial before Kaplan starting April 9.

Kaplan said he will decide whether to accept the plea after reviewing a probation report on Campos and considering arguments by the government in favor of the arrangement. He set June 27 as a possible sentencing date.

In the plea a deal, the defendant and prosecutors agreed that federal sentencing guidelines call for him to get zero to six months in prison, according to Campos’s lawyer, Frederick Hafetz. Campos would also consent to an order by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. barring him from working at a bank again.

Kaplan, who isn’t bound by the sentencing guidelines, wouldn’t be able to sentence Campos to more than the one-year maximum sentence for the misdemeanor.

Campos is one of 11 people charged last April, among them the founders of Pokerstars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker. Prosecutors from the office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan claim the three companies illegally circumvented a 2006 law that bars banks from processing payments to offshore gambling websites.

The case is U.S. v. Tzvetkoff, 10-CR-00336, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).