Brent Beckley, one of the founders of Absolute Poker, pleaded guilty in Manhattan to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to violate the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and is expected to be sentenced in April 2012. “I knew that it was illegal to accept credit cards from players to gamble on the Internet,” Beckley said to the judge before his plea. “I knew that it was illegal to deceive the banks in this way.”
In April 2011, the U.S. indicted eleven people associated with PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker, including Canadians Isai Scheinberg, Nelson Burtnick and Ryan Lang.
The indictment alleged that:
- Among others, Beckley deceived, or directed others to deceive, U.S. banks into processing billions of dollars in payments by disguising the funds as payments to fictitious merchants;
- Beckley paid certain payment processors to lie to U.S. banks about the nature of their business and the transactions processed through the U.S. financial system and to disguise the payments as non-gambling related proceeds;
- In order to continue to accept Visa and MasterCard payments from U.S. customers for online gambling, the defendants set up phony entities to be able to have credit card merchant numbers assigned to those entities that were not associated with online gambling to circumvent regulations implemented by Visa and MasterCard to deny all authorization requests from online gambling merchants. Because the risk control and anti-money laundering systems at the banks could frequently detect the activity associated with the phony merchants as illegal gambling activity, different phony entities were continually being created to obtain merchant codes to process payments;
- The defendants developed stored value cards (also called prepaid access) such as prepaid debit and phone cards that could be loaded with funds from a U.S. customer’s Visa or MasterCard unassociated with a merchant code so that the cards could be used to transfer funds to the online poker sites and they also arranged for false e-check processing to facilitate gambling from U.S. customers; and
- The defendants invested in small local banks in the U.S. that were facing financial difficulty so that they could control their decisions with respect to the processing of gambling proceeds. In exchange, the banks or their officers, were given certain kick-backs from the funds processed.
Another defendant, Bradley Franzen, pleaded guilty in May 2011.