by Renee Israel
July 4 - Ray Bitar, the CEO of Full Tilt Poker, who has spent
over a year in Ireland trying to solve the financial woes of his
beleaguered online poker site, arrived back in the US yesterday,
where he was promptly arrested by authorities.
Bitar knew that the US Department of Justice would see to
his arrest following his flight into JFK International, and he
immediately appeared before a Manhattan federal court, before
making bail on a $2.5 million bond.
The online gambling executive is one of five out of a group of
eleven men charged in April 2011, who opted to remain out the
country and not enter a plea. Six other men pleaded guilty to some
of the charges which ranged from money laundering to bank fraud
and illegal gambling, with one of them already sentenced.
Bitar Tried to Negotiate FTP Resolution
After the Full Tilt Poker CEO was arrested, attorneys for
Bitar said their client had opted to remain in Ireland and avoid
US authorities until now, as he was trying to negotiate a
resolution for the company.
While months of talks with French investors Groupe Bernard Tapie
fell through at the last minute, Full Tilt Poker has, in recent
months, been involved with talks regarding a possible acquisition
by rival online poker site, Poker Stars.
Full Tilt Poker players have been cautiously optimistic that
these acquisition talks would result in them having their accounts
unfrozen, as hundreds of millions of dollars worth of funds are
currently tied up in the online poker room.
Poker Stars declined to comment on the status of talks following
the news of Bitar's arrest.
"I know that a lot of people are very angry with me," said Bitar
in New York yesterday. "I understand why. Full Tilt should never
have gotten into a position where it could not repay player
Bitar said that he had worked hard on possible solutions to get
players repaid over the past 15 months.
"Returning today is part of that process," he said. "I believe we
are near the end of a very long road, and I will continue to do
whatever is required to get the players repaid, and I hope that it
will happen soon."
Bitar Accused of FTP Ponzi Scheme
The government accused Bitar of running a Ponzi scheme which, it
is alleged, continued to direct Full Tilt Poker profits to himself
and other FTP directors right up until 2011, even though funds
were depleting and there were signs that the government would step
in to take action any minute.
The government says that players were led to believe that their
funds were safe, even though it became increasingly difficult for
FTP to transfer payments due to US online gambling laws.