U.S. Attorney Claims Full Till Poker a Ponzi Scheme; Lederer, Ferguson, & Furst Accused
The poker world was no doubt anxious to hear news about Full Tilt Poker and the Alderney Gaming Control Commission (AGCC) hearing that began again Monday at the Riverbank Park Plaza Hotel in London, but it was shocking news from the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office that set the poker world ablaze. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced on Tuesday that prosecutors were amending their original complaint, unsealed on Black Friday, as part of a money-laundering complaint against some of FTP’s biggest names.
The amendment alleges that Full Tilt Poker and board members, including CEO Ray Bitar, Howard Lederer, Chris “Jesus” Ferguson and Rafe Furst defrauded players in what Bharara claimed was nothing but a Ponzi scheme: “Full Tilt was not a legitimate poker company, but a global Ponzi scheme. Full Tilt insiders lined their own pockets with funds picked from the pockets of their most loyal customers while blithely lying to both players and the public alike about the safety and security of the money deposited.”
The amended complaint, goes on to lay out details, including assertion that as of March 21, 2011, FTP owed approximately $390 million to players around the world, with $150 million owed to U.S. players. FTP only had $60 million on deposit in its bank accounts, however, meaning over $300 million is owed to players worldwide.
This was the result of FTP’s payment processing channels becoming so disrupted that “the company faced increasing difficulty attempting to collect funds from players in the United States. Rather than disclose this fact, Full Tilt Poker simply credited players’ online gambling accounts with money that had never actually been collected from the players’ bank accounts. Full Tilt Poker allowed players to gamble with — and lose to other players — this phantom money that Full Tilt Poker never actually collected or possessed.”
Not only that, but the complaint alleges that between April 2007 and April 2011, Bitar, Lederer, Ferguson and Furst lined their own pockets with approximately $443,860,529.89 of players’ money.
A press release regarding the amended complaint claimed: "Bitar received approximately $41 million, Lederer received approximately $42 million, and Furst received approximately $11.7 million. Ferguson was allocated approximately $87,486,182.87 in distributions, and received at least $25 million, with the remaining balance characterized as "owed" to him. Much of the money that was distributed was transferred by the board members and owners to accounts in Switzerland and other overseas locations."
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