Raymond Bitar, the former chief executive officer of Full Tilt Poker, which is now a part of The Rational Group, has decided to plead guilty to some of the criminal charges against him. He is soon going to undergo a heart transplant procedure at a hospital in California.
The US authorities arrested Bitar in July 2012 at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. In 2011, the US federal government cracked down on three major online poker rooms, including Full Tilt Poker, and as part of the crackdown, it charged 11 executive officers associated with these online poker rooms, including Bitar, of illegal gambling, money laundering, and bank fraud.
Speaking about the latest developments in Bitar’s case, John F. Baughman, the advocate representing Mr. Bitar, refused to state exactly what charges Bitar will plead guilty to. Mr. Baughman said: “It’s a very unusual situation. We’ve been able to work out something with the government that takes into account the unique circumstances. We appreciate the government’s courtesy in this regard.”
The federal government originally charged 11 people associated with Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker, and PokerStars with various criminal charges and seven of them have already pleaded guilty. One of those who had pleaded guilty was Nelson Burtnick, who was the head of payment processing at PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. Bitar will be the eighth person to plead guilty. The US law-enforcement agencies are yet to arrest three more people.
According to US prosecutors, Full Tilt Poker and other online poker rooms had fooled US banks into processing poker-related funds by disguising them as payments made for goods such as jewelry, flowers, golf balls, and others sold online. In July, US authorities claimed that Bitar had cheated Full Tilt Poker players by using their deposits for operational purposes and for making payments of around $430 million to those on the Full Tilt Poker board. Allegedly, Full Tilt Poker had lied to customers that their deposits will be held in separate accounts. Since Full Tilt Poker had mixed player funds with operational funds, it was unable to refund its players when the US government cracked down on it.