Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Man-Made Monster is On the Loose! (Black Friday)

'Black Friday' (1940)We keep talking about Black Friday. And we will for a long time to come, too.

Headlines yesterday regarding Brent Beckley, one of the 11 targeted as part of the “Black Friday” indictment and civil complaint unsealed back on April 15. Beckley pleaded guilty to a couple of the counts against him -- conspiracy to violate the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud. Here’s the DoJ’s press release announcing Beckley’s plea.

As Haley Hintze points out over on the Kick Ass Poker blog, Beckley wasn’t exactly one of the founders of Absolute Poker -- as was his stepbrother, the also-indicted AP founder Scott Tom -- although he did come in early on and served as the director of payment processing. Beckley now likely faces up 12-18 months imprisonment (or more) while also being made to give up $300,000. His sentencing isn’t scheduled to happen until April 2012.

Stuart Hoegner (a.k.a. “Gaming Counsel”) has a new blog post over on Pokerati in which he discusses Beckley’s deal, interpreting its terms to suggest that Beckley may not be cooperating with the DoJ in quite the same way another of those indicted on “Black Friday,” the payment processor Bradley Franzen (who pleaded guilty to three counts back in May) might be.

Meanwhile, two other “Black Friday” defendants -- Chad Elie (another payment processor) and John Campos (former Vice Chairman of the Board and part owner of SunFirst Bank in Utah) are fighting the charges at this point, having filed a motion earlier this month to have the charges against them dismissed. (See Subject:Poker’s report on that motion.) That probably ain’t gonna happen, meaning that barring any deal those two will be going to trial in March 2012.

One other indicted on “Black Friday,” the payment processor Ira Rubin, was arrested back in late April in Guatemala. I believe he’s still in custody and is apparently nearing some sort of plea agreement.

It seems doubtful at present that any of the others indicted will be coming to the U.S. either to make pleas or fight the charges against them any time soon. Those include Isai Scheinberg (PokerStars founder), Paul Tate (Director of Payments for Pokerstars), Ray Bitar (CEO of TiltWare/Full Tilt Poker), Nelson Burtwick (Director of Payments for TiltWare), Scott Tom (of AP), and Ryan Lang (another payment processor), all of whom remain “offshore” like the sites with which they are associated.

Remember the separate civil complaint targeting the sites -- the one amended back in September to add more allegations against Full Tilt Poker as well as the names/accounts of Ray Bitar, Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, and Rafe Furst -- seeks the forfeiture of a big bunch of cabbage (i.e., $3 billion) but isn’t bringing criminal charges or aiming to imprison anyone.

Also worth remembering is the fact that the still-pending deal involving Group Bernard Tapie and FTP -- the one “brokered” by the DoJ (and on which the DoJ hasn’t really commented, as far as I know) -- involves dismissing those civil claims against FTP but doesn’t affect the “Black Friday” indictment or amended civil complaint.

We’re coming to the end of 2011, and thus instinctively are encouraged to look back and think about the year’s top stories in poker. Obviously Black Friday will be topping all such lists this time around.

But really, just about every poker-related story from 2011 is going to be related in some fashion to the sudden shutdown of the online game in the U.S. following the events of April 15. Probably most of them in 2012, too.

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