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Full Tilt Poker Founder Needs Transplant, to Plead Guilty

April 8 (Bloomberg) -- Full Tilt Poker founder Raymond Bitar, accused of using funds from online players to finance company operations and pay its owners, will plead guilty under an agreement that will let him avoid prison and obtain a needed heart transplant, his lawyer told a judge.

Bitar was charged in 2011 with gambling, bank fraud and money laundering in connection with his operation of Ireland-based Full Tilt. He was arrested July 2 at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on his return to the U.S.

Bitar and prosecutors are working to arrange the guilty plea, John F. Baughman, Bitar’s lawyer, told U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska in a conference in Manhattan federal court today. Bitar, who lives in California, was excused from attending the court proceeding because of his health.

“It’s a very unusual situation,” Baughman said outside court.

Bitar was arrested by agents of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation in New York on July 2, the same day he was named in a revised indictment claiming he and another man used funds from online players to finance Full Tilt’s operations and pay its owners in what one prosecutor described as a Ponzi scheme.

Prosecutors from the office Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara charged Bitar along with the former Nelson Burtnick, head of Full Tilt’s payment processing department. They claimed Full Tilt solicited new online gamblers after the business was outlawed in the U.S. Bitar also lied to investors about the security of their money, claiming falsely that it was kept in separate accounts.

Bitar is one of 11 people charged by the government in April 2011 in connection with the online gambling sites Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars and Absolute Poker.

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

To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Van Voris in New York at rvanvoris@bloomberg.net

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

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