Funds Laundered by Former Full Tilt Poker CEO Ray Bitar Returned to U.S.
Six years after Black Friday shook the online poker world, Full Tilt Poker continues to make news headlines here in 2017. Late last week, BBC reported that former Full Tilt CEO Raymond Bitar laundered funds through the Channel Island of Guernsey. This resulted in a total of £9.5 million ($12.6 million) remitted to the United States government.
The money was discovered after Guernsey and the United States Department of Treasury inked an agreement in 2015 whereby both countries would share half of any seized laundered money and other criminal activities in offshore bank accounts in the country. In total, £10.6 million ($14.3 million), which included the money relating to Full Tilt and another case, was remitted to the United States. Based on the agreement between the two countries, it can be assumed that the Guernsey's government padded its coffers by an equal amount.
Bitar's assets were seized following an investigation which included Guernsey authorities restraining bank accounts and sharing financial records from 2012 to 2015.
Government representatives from both countries expressed their gratitude to the cooperation that led to the sharing of funds in this case including Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General at United States Department of Justice John Cronan and Guernsey Attorney General Megan Pullum, QC.
"Guernsey has an ongoing and exemplary commitment to international co-operation and mutual legal assistance and we are therefore extremely pleased to announce this asset share," Pullum said according to the BBC.
Bitar at Full Tilt Poker and Beyond
Bitar was responsible for the operations at Full Tilt Poker. While he was CEO, the online poker room into grew into a huge billion-dollar gambling company and it signed some of the many of the biggest names in poker to represent the Full Tilt brand.
After Full Tilt Poker was shut down on Black Friday, it quickly became apparent that the company did not have player funds in segregated accounts, thus leading to players without access to their money until the Rational Group, the former parent company of PokerStars, stepped in and agreed to a deal with the U.S. Department of Justice in August 2012 to acquire the company and return funds to players.
On April 15, 2013, the second anniversary of Black Friday, Bitar pled guilty to unlawful internet gambling and conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud.
U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York spared Bitar jail time citing his heart condition. Instead, Bitar was sentenced to time served and ordered to forfeit his assets, which were believed at the time to include his various homes and $40 million in cash.
Little was heard about Bitar for two years until he got married to Jacquelyn Lucas in a multi-million dollar ceremony in October 2015. Not only were interested parties wondering how Bitar had the funds for an extravagant wedding, but he also appeared to be healthy and not someone who looked to be knocking on death's door.