Nelson Burtnick, the head of payment processing for poker website Full Tilt Poker, pleaded guilty to taking part in a scheme to deceive banks into handling Internet gambling transactions that violated U.S. laws.
Burtnick, 41, a Canadian citizen, told U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein in New York today that U.S. banks would have refused to process such payments for Ireland-based Full Tilt Poker had they known the transactions were illegal. Burtnick admitted committing the crimes while working at both Isle of Man-based PokerStars and later at Full Tilt.
“We had to do this type of deception to enable U.S. poker players to load their accounts” with funds, Burtnick told the magistrate. “I know that what I did was wrong.”
Burtnick faces as long as 15 years in prison when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, Gorenstein said. No sentencing date was set.
Kelly Currie, a lawyer for Burtnick, declined to comment on the plea after court.
Prosecutors allege that after the U.S. implemented the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006, barring banks from processing payments to offshore gaming sites, the founders and employees of Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars and Absolute Poker worked around the ban.
In July, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, whose office is prosecuting the case, as well as a civil suit against the three gambling companies, announced a $731 million settlement with PokerStars and Full Tilt. PokerStars agreed to forfeit $547 million.
PokerStars agreed to acquire the assets of Full Tilt, whose U.S. victims will be able to seek compensation from the Justice Department from the funds, prosecutors said at the time.
The case is U.S. v. Tzvetkoff, 10-cr-336, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).