Friday, July 27, 2012

Black Friday Defendants Behind Bars

Black Friday Defendants Behind BarsAmong the poker-related headlines this week were some reporting the sentencing of two of the “Black Friday” defendants -- Brent Beckley, who headed up payments at Absolute Poker, and Ira Rubin, a payment processor who worked with all three of the targeted sites (PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and AP/UltimateBet).

The pair were co-defendants, with their method of working together spelled out in court during the course of their trial. In his role with AP, Beckley would identify third-party guys like Rubin who could facilitate the moving of money back and forth between players and the site. Rubin, of course, created all of those phony-baloney websites to help falsify to banks and other institutions the true nature of the transactions.

Earlier in the week, Beckley was given a 14-month sentence and ordered to pay $300,000. He was apparently given some leniency for complying with prosecutors from the get-go.

A couple of weeks ago, Haley Hintze explained Beckley’s situation and some of the reasons why he might avoid longer sentencing in a post for Kick Ass Poker. Hintze also shares the interesting brief filed by Arlo Devlin-Brown on behalf of the DOJ outlining to U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan reasons why Beckley’s punishment shouldn’t exceed that which was recommended by the applicable guidelines.

Meanwhile in Rubin’s case it sounds like the payment processor earned scant sympathy in court, with his long history of criminal charges stretching back several decades stacking up against him. For the curious, Diamond Flush has compiled an interesting mini-bio of Rubin detailing his life of crime.

When handing down Rubin’s punishment yesterday, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan characterized Rubin as “an unreformed con man and fraudster,” actually giving him a longer sentence than the 18-24 months recommended by both prosecutors and Rubin’s attorney. Rather, in addition to being ordered to forfeit $5 million, Rubin was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. He’s already been in jail for 15 months, which will count as time served.

Hard not to read stories about the fates of some of these Black Friday folks with a certain ambivalence.

They broke laws, they surrendered and pleaded guilty, they got punished. Yes, they helped herald what has become a new era of online poker in the United States, a dark age that continues to the present and looks like will extend at least several months further, if not longer. But it’s not as though what happens to these guys now has a heckuva lot to do with those of us who once played on the targeted sites. Not specifically, anyway.

The headlines do matter, especially when they arrive as non-specific references to people being jailed for online poker. Sort of thing tends to further all of those associations between online poker and criminal behavior already well established in the minds of many. That is to say, all that’s happening now will have at least some influence on what’s to come, as far as online poker in the U.S. is concerned.

For various reasons we’ll all be a little more curious to see what happens with Full Tilt Poker CEO Ray Bitar, another one of those originally named in the Black Friday indictment who had a host of additional charges levied against him in the amended civil complaint last September.

Bitar finally came to the U.S. to give himself up earlier this month, pleaded not guilty, and has posted bail. Interestingly, Judge Kaplan -- who in general hasn’t been too receptive to the Black Friday defendants who have come before him -- recused himself from Bitar’s trial since Bitar is being represented by the law firm for which Kaplan once worked.

Bitar’s trial may clue us all in a little more about what happened to our still missing FTP money, thus increasing its apparent relevance to us.

'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly' (1966)And while finding out as much as we can about what transpired during the initial “wild West” period of online poker is important, it’s already starting to feel like that era is slipping further and further away.

Some of us will continue to remember what it was like “back in the day,” though. And how just like with the real wild West there was a lot that was good, plenty that was bad, and more ugly than most of us ever imagined.

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Blogger lightning36 said...

A few weeks ago I was telling some home game friends "I remember when I used to have over 30 icons for poker rooms on my laptop ..."

7/27/2012 5:11 PM  

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