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Poker Website May Have Run Ponzi Scheme

Epic Poker League
Jeff Bottari, Getty Images

The online poker world in the United States was brought to a halt in April as Full Tilt Poker and two other notable poker websites were charged with bank fraud, illegal gambling offenses and money laundering. But after the news that came out on Tuesday, what has popularly become known within the poker community as “Black Friday” may prove to have been just a taste of what is yet to come.

On Tuesday, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney motioned to amend the forfeiture and civil money laundering complaint to highlight that Full Tilt Poker and its board of directors operated the company as a “massive Ponzi scheme”.

The amended complaint explains that while FTP maintained player funds were safe, the company never actually had the represented cash on hand as a result of crediting users’ deposits without actually receiving the money. There was a shortfall of approximately $130 million as a result of that process.

The complaint further states that as of March 31, FTP owed players around the world $390 million, but only had $59 million on hand.

In a statement released Tuesday, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said:

As the proposed amended complaint describes in detail, Full Tilt was not a legitimate poker company, but a global Ponzi scheme. As a result of our enforcement actions, this alleged self-dealing scheme came to light.

Not only did the firm orchestrate a massive fraud against the U.S. banking system, as previously alleged, Full Tilt also cheated and abused its own players to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

As described, Full Tilt insiders lined their own 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.

Additionally, the complaint assesses that the company used player funds to pay board members and other owners more than $440 million.

For additional information about this shocking story, check out Andrew Feldman’s piece on ESPN.com.

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