Full Tilt Poker Founder Pleads Guilty in Gambling Probe

Full Tilt Poker founder Raymond Bitar, accused of using online player funds to finance his company in what prosecutors called a Ponzi scheme, pleaded guilty in the U.S. government probe of Internet gambling.

Bitar was 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. He was sentenced today to time served and ordered to forfeit $40 million.

Bitar was charged 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.

Appearing by video link from California, Bitar pleaded guilty to two counts in Manhattan federal court. John F. Baughman, his lawyer, told U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska last week they were discussing a deal that would allow Bitar to avoid prison and obtain a heart transplant.

Bitar was arrested the same day he was named in a revised indictment alleging he and another man used funds from online players to finance Full Tilt’s operations and pay its owners.

Prosecutors from the office Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara charged Bitar along with 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, the government said.

At today’s hearing, his lawyer told the judge he would enter a heart transplant program on May 6.

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

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