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Poker News | World Poker News

Full Tilt Poker Subject of Federal Grand Jury Investigation

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Numerous online poker sites left the United States market after the passage of the UIGEA, and even sites like PartyPoker had a very difficult time escaping the wrath of the U.S. Department of Justice. Yet other companies continued to do business in America seemingly oblivious to the law of the land, as ambiguous and unclear as it is. But now it seems as if Full Tilt Poker might be under scrutiny in a way that it didn’t anticipate. With words like gambling and money laundering being tossed around by a federal grand jury, this could get serious…fast.

The Financial Times first reported on April 4 that Full Tilt Poker is the subject of an investigation by the federal grand jury located in Manhattan, and indictments may follow in short order. A source told the news outlet that a subpoena will be issued to a witness within the week.

Full Tilt Poker was brought to the attention of the grand jury as a result of a recent civil lawsuit filed in Los Angeles in 2009. The James Hicks v. Tiltware et al case involved Hicks’s membership at Full Tilt’s online poker site and the assertion that the site should not have been available to California residents under state law, and Hicks also claimed unfair business practices. He sought an injunction against the company but didn’t specify any monetary damages.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began investigating Full Tilt Poker and associated persons like Chris Ferguson and Howard Lederer, looking into allegations that the site illegally serves U.S. residents and could possibly be guilty of not only violating the Wire Act but possibly money laundering charges. The Financial Times reported that FBI agents or prosecutors have spoken with at least two people involved in Full Tilt legal disputes.

Lederer and Ferguson are being represented by Los Angeles attorney Eric Jackson, who told reporter Joseph Menn that his clients had not been informed of any grand jury investigation. “We are not going to comment about a speculative grand jury investigation that we are not aware of.”

Only a year ago, it seemed as if PokerStars and Full Tilt were squarely in the sights of the U.S. Department of Justice when more than $30 million in online gaming transfer funds were seized and held by U.S. banks. The incident was resolved with online gaming customers but eventually showed a larger picture involving a Canadian-based online payment processing company, Account Services, and its owner, Douglas Rennick. That case originated in the Southern District Court of New York and involved charges of money laundering and illegal gambling offenses, quite similar to allegations being discussed in the current Full Tilt investigation.

Whether U.S. investigative bodies have been putting together a case against Full Tilt Poker for years or if this is simply a new development stemming from the Los Angeles civil case may not be known for some time, but it seems as if more information will be released in the coming days and weeks if subpoenas and indictments are handed down from the federal grand jury.

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