Was Full Tilt Poker a Ponzi Scheme? Feds Say Yes

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As if Full Tilt Poker’s troubles weren’t huge enough, now there are allegations floating around that the online poker site was actually…get this: a Ponzi scheme. On September 20, 2011, the Wall Street Journal reported that federal prosecutors are claiming that Full Tilt Poker was a global Ponzi scheme and not a legitimate online poker company at all.

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Lawyers for the U.S. Department of Justice assert that the owners of Full Tilt Poker used the website to illegally take money out from player accounts and paid that money to themselves. The Justice Department alleges that Full Tilt Poker took $444 million out of player accounts and gave that money to the members of its board. While the company protested with assurances that player accounts were secure, when the feds seized FullTilt’s bank account they found it contained only $60 million. That leaves more than $380 million left to cover the funds players legitimately deposited or won and had left to use or withdraw. According to the lawsuit, one of Full Tilt Poker’s top execs, Raymond Bitar, currently under criminal indictment for these and related charges, received $41 million illegally from player accounts and celebrity poker pro Howard “The Professor Lederer allegedly received $42 million while fellow poker pro and one of the original founders and principal owners of Full Tilt Poker, Chris “Jesus” Ferguson supposedly got $25 million with another $60 million promised.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was the one making the accusation that the company was nothing more than a Ponzi scheme, not only defrauding the banks but cheating its own members as well.