Absolute Poker Co-Owner Pleads Guilty To Conspiracy To Violate UIGEA, Wire Fraud, And Mail Fraud In Connection With Internet Poker Site Operation
On December 20, 2011, Brent Beckley, co-owner of Absolute Poker, an internet poker website, pled guilty to conspiracy to violate the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (“UIGEA”), mail fraud, and wire fraud in connection to his operation of the internet poker website. In pleading guilty before Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Beckley admitted his wrongdoing: “I knew that it was illegal to accept credit cards from players to gamble on the internet.”
While internet pay-for-play poker remains very popular, generating $5.1 billion in revenues last year alone, Beckley’s prosecution stems from a larger effort by Federal prosecutors to target internet gambling websites for violations of federal law. Although the law does not specifically address internet pay for play poker sites, UIGEA defines “unlawful internet gambling” as: 1) placing, receiving or transmitting a bet, 2) by means of the Internet, even in part, 3) but only if that bet is unlawful under any other federal or state law applicable in the place where the bet is initiated, received or otherwise made. However, since UIGEA’s passage, debate has raged over whether pay for play poker actually violates federal law with poker sites and federal prosecutors reaching opposite conclusions. Internet poker site operators have argued that UIGEA does not apply because poker should be classified as a game of skill, not a game of chance, and thus beyond the reach of UIGEA.
As we previously reported, on April 15, 2011, federal prosecutors indicted eleven people, including Mr. Beckley, in connection with their involvement in running internet poker websites PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker. Prosecutors alleged that after the passage of a 2006 law which prohibited banks from processing payments to offshore gambling websites, the defendants engaged in a fraudulent scheme to deceive US banks and financial institutions as to the true identity of the funds being transferred by using third party payment processors to make funds appear as payments for goods and services to non-existent online merchants and fake companies.
Beckley is scheduled to be sentenced on April 19, 2012 and is expected to receive between 12 and 18 months imprisonment as punishment. If you have questions pertaining to UIGEA, the BSA, anti-money laundering compliance, and how to ensure that your business maintains regulatory compliance at both the state and federal levels, or for information about Fuerst Ittleman’s experience litigating white collar criminal cases, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.