Last week the Manhattan United States Attorney's Office issued an amendment to its April 15 complaint against the major online poker providers. The amended document was mostly aimed at Full Tilt's founders and owners – Chris Ferguson, Howard Lederer, Rafe Furst and CEO Ray Bitar. Full Tilt, which has been struggling to find new investors for the company ever since its egaming license was suspended on June 29th, came back to Alderney Gambling Control Commission's (AGCC) hearing in London last Monday, however, just a day after, the U.S. Attorney's Office released the amended complaint which changed the situation completely.
Commenting on the situation U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said that Full Tilt “cheated and abused its own players to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. ... Full Tilt insiders lined their 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 with the company.”
Now four Full Tilt shareholders face serious accusations of fraud based on which the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) has issued a warrant in rem to seize five bank accounts associated with the four indictees. The legal term “in rem” means that the object of seizure is someone's property – as opposed to arresting the person themselves.
However, this is not necessarily a bad thing as there is a notion that the money from the bank accounts in question may be used to return funds to Full Tilt players. Direct orders to FBI officers have already been issued by the Honorable Leonard B. Sand, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York.
Here is what page three of the warrant says regarding the seizure of Full Tilt's board members' property.
“YOU ARE HEREBY COMMANDED AND AUTHORIZED to seize the property described below by personally serving a copy of this warrant in rem upon any person presently in possession of such property:
All funds and other property on deposit in account numbered GB81 RBOS 6095 4234 0877 66 held at NatWest, in the name of Raymond Bitar, and all funds traceable thereto;
All funds and other property on deposit in account numbered 7655741861 held at Wells Fargo Bank N.A. in the name of HH Lederer Consulting LLC, and all funds traceable thereto; and
All funds and other property on deposit in account numbered GB56LOYD30166314010402 held at Lloyds TSB International, Isle of Mann, in the name of Howard Lederer, and all funds traceable thereto;
All fund and other property on deposit in the account numbered 40039049628 held at Citibank N.A., in the name of Chris Ferguson, and all funds traceable thereto; and
Account numbered CH87 0875 5057 0684 0010 0 held at Pictet & Co Bankers, Switzerland, in the name of Telamonian Ajax Trust, and all funds traceable thereto.
YOU ARE FURTHER COMMANDED AND AUTHORIZED to prepare a written inventory of the property seized and promptly return this warrant and inventory before this Court as required by law.”
Combining the money that the DoJ may appropriate from the seized accounts and those they have already pocketed back in April, the total amount could appear to be enough to payback FT's debt to US players. The hopes of this actually happening grow even stronger as the DoJ statement presents Full Tilt players as victims.
The Poker Players Alliance agrees with such treatment and believes that the players should be considered federal crime victims. “If the allegations are true, it means Full Tilt committed fraud and deceit of players,” said John Pappas, PPA executive director. “Therefore, I think the DOJ should set up some sort of victims fund. I'm not sure if the DOJ would view that people playing poker were victims, but I think that is something that should be pressed.”
The PPA also strongly suggests that all US citizens who lost their money due to Full Tilt Poker's illegal actions should contact Wendy Olsen Clancy, the DoJ's victim coordinator, and ask for the right to be treated as a crime victim and seek restitution of lost funds. Her contact information can be found by following this link.