Feds Call Full Tilt Poker “Global Ponzi Scheme”

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Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse for Full Tilt Poker, which had its gaming license suspended by the Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC) back in June, the U.S. Department of Justice asserted on Tuesday that the online poker room was “a massive Ponzi scheme against its own players,” according to Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and a U.S. Government filing. This time, the Feds have singled out Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, and Rafe Furst.

In a Justice Department statement sourced by Forbes on Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who oversaw the Black Friday indictments five months ago, argued, “Full Tilt was not a legitimate poker company, but a global Ponzi scheme. Full Tilt insiders lined their own pockets with funds picked from the pockets of their most loyal customers while blithely lying to both players and the public alike about the safety and security of the money deposited.” Allegedly, Full Tilt paid its executives and pros $443 million over the last four years.

Check out the thread in the Poker Sites forum.

A Department of Justice memo posted on Poker Strategy noted that Full Tilt “defrauded its poker players by misrepresenting to players that funds deposited into their online player accounts were secure and segregated from operating funds, while at the same time using player funds to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars to Full Tilt Poker owners. Full Tilt Poker was able to accomplish this massive fraud, in part, because it illegally conducted business in the United States, but maintained its personnel, operations, assets, and accounts principally overseas” in Ireland.

The amended filing charges that Full Tilt Poker owed $390 million to players around the world as of March 2011, but only had $59 million on-hand with which to do so. The rest, in addition to purportedly being paid out to owners, was used for such purposes as operating expenses.

The filing adds that the deception could have come from the company’s highest ranks: “In or about March 2008, [Ray Bitar (pictured) and Howard Lederer] advised a Full Tilt Poker employee that Full Tilt Poker could represent to players that Full Tilt Poker kept all of its player funds in segregated accounts and that funds would be available for withdrawal by players at all times.” Several form e-mails from Full Tilt Poker support staff are included; each asserts that player funds were kept in separate accounts at all times.

A thread that appeared in a poker forum, presumably TwoPlusTwo, appears in the filing, as does a response from Full Tilt Poker representative ftpdoug that claimed, “Players’ funds at Full Tilt Poker are kept in several deposit accounts throughout the world, all of which are separate and distinct from our operating accounts.”

The U.S. Government charges that Bitar received $41 million, a portion of which was deposited into a Nat West bank account numbered GB81 RBOS 6095 4234 0877 66. Lederer, meanwhile, received $42 million, a portion of which was deposited into a Wells Fargo bank account numbered 7655741861. Ferguson (pictured) allegedly topped both Lederer and Bitar by taking in $85 million, but only $25 million was actually paid to the Full Tilt Poker pro.

Furst received $11 million in distributions, while the other owners received the balance of the $443 million, according to the U.S. Government. The filing continues, “These ownership distributions continued at a rate of approximately $10 million per month when, by at least the summer of 2010, Full Tilt Poker’s management was aware that Full Tilt Poker was having difficulty collecting funds from U.S. player accounts.”

The filing concludes by saying that the owners of Full Tilt have made no attempt to repay the $300 million owed to players around the world and, “As of September 19th, 2011, Full Tilt Poker’s website stated that players’ funds were ‘safe and secure.'” A shortfall of around $130 million was reportedly built up for U.S. players alone after Full Tilt credited members’ accounts with funds before actually withdrawing from players’ bank accounts.

Meanwhile, the online poker community continues to wait for the results of a closed door meeting between Full Tilt Poker and AGCC officials in London. The hearing, which has apparently spilled over into a second day, could reveal even more of the inner workings of Full Tilt Poker.

Read the entire Forbes story, Wall Street Journal story, and amended complaint.

44 COMMENTS

    • great stuff makes you want to keep playing online poker…
      Pretty sad to hear names like that involved guess its everywhere the same in this world where you have money you have fraud no exception…

    • This makes pokerstars look that much better to me though. I hope that if those involved in this possible scam are found guilty that they get the penalty they are deserving of.

    • More proof to the need of a regulated framework for the industry…cause when it isn’t, a mess like this is created.

    • I’m so glad I quit that site years before this happened. It was pretty obvious that the whole thing was a fucking scam.I remember telling people “FT is a huge ponzi scheme. You have to wait 1 month for YOUR money?”Basically they would just come back at me, like some of you do here, and pull out the tin foil hat line.If I had tens of thousands of dollars on that site, I would definitely find the “pros” and have a talk.

      Oh and I’m tired of all you shills raving about pokerstars.We have no idea what people are capable of half way across the world. You guys love pokerstars, because it is the best of the worst. Grow up, and learn a thing or two.

    • Pathetic on so many levels. I seriously hope all the accused are brought to justice for this, if it’s indeed true.

    • More proof to the need of a regulated framework for the industry…cause when it isn’t, a mess like this is created.

      Amen.

    • Beat every single penny out of those crooked pro´s and pay the players back % wise with the total money available

    • I’m so glad I quit that site years before this happened. It was pretty obvious that the whole thing was a fucking scam.I remember telling people “FT is a huge ponzi scheme. You have to wait 1 month for YOUR money?”Basically they would just come back at me, like some of you do here, and pull out the tin foil hat line.If I had tens of thousands of dollars on that site, I would definitely find the “pros” and have a talk.

      Oh and I’m tired of all you shills raving about pokerstars.We have no idea what people are capable of half way across the world. You guys love pokerstars, because it is the best of the worst. Grow up, and learn a thing or two.

      ^^^^^^^^^^^^
      I quit only after posting 60k in losses. You have no idea the level of frustration I have for Full Tilt taking most of my 105k Sunday Warm-Up score and running my poker career.

      I’m so glad I quit that site years before this happened. It was pretty obvious that the whole thing was a fucking scam.I remember telling people “FT is a huge ponzi scheme. You have to wait 1 month for YOUR money?”Basically they would just come back at me, like some of you do here, and pull out the tin foil hat line.If I had tens of thousands of dollars on that site, I would definitely find the “pros” and have a talk.

      Oh and I’m tired of all you shills raving about pokerstars.We have no idea what people are capable of half way across the world. You guys love pokerstars, because it is the best of the worst. Grow up, and learn a thing or two.

      ^^^^^^^^^^^^
      I quit only after posting 60k in losses. I ran 10-40% on every other site for years. You have no idea the level of frustration I have for Full Tilt taking most of my 105k Sunday Warm-Up score and ruining my poker career.

    • Those of you saying, “Oh, that makes pokerstars so much better!!”, I ask you what makes you think that these other pokersites like Pokerstars (which was also indicted on black friday) arent just as corrupt, their just not dumb enough to get caught like Lederer ( Never liked the guy). …Maybe I’m wrong and Full Tilt is the ONLY site that succumbs to the darkside of greed and temptation…

    • I’m so glad I quit that site years before this happened. It was pretty obvious that the whole thing was a fucking scam.I remember telling people “FT is a huge ponzi scheme. You have to wait 1 month for YOUR money?”Basically they would just come back at me, like some of you do here, and pull out the tin foil hat line.If I had tens of thousands of dollars on that site, I would definitely find the “pros” and have a talk.

      Oh and I’m tired of all you shills raving about pokerstars.We have no idea what people are capable of half way across the world. You guys love pokerstars, because it is the best of the worst. Grow up, and learn a thing or two.

      ^^^^^^^^^^^^
      I quit FTP only after posting 60k in losses. I ran 10-40% on every other site for years. You have no idea the level of frustration I have for Full Tilt taking most of my 105k Sunday Warm-Up score and ruining my budding poker career. Now I’m just a run of the mill stiff.

    • I quit FTP only after posting 60k in losses. I ran 10-40% on every other site for years. You have no idea the level of frustration I have for Full Tilt taking most of my 105k Sunday Warm-Up score and ruining my budding poker career. Now I’m just a run of the mill stiff.

    • “Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse for Full Tilt Poker”yeh ok, how bout this for an opening line….”Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse for Full Tilt Poker players owed money,”

    • LOL makes me think of those training videos these guys had on FULL TILT…looking us directly in the eyes while doing us from behind..

    • Lederer def has that scumbag dirtball image. Only a matter of time before the skeletons came tumbling out of his closet. Do you think that little part of his upper lip quivers when he’s bent over in Annie’s lap sobbing, “oh Annie, nobody wants to play with me”. At least he doesn’t eat children, I guess, There’s something to build on Howard….

    • his sister is no better “annie duke” she had to be aware of what was going on. Now she is the working with epic poker league and formerly represented ultimatebet, which screwed me too. How do these people get any respect?

    • greedy capitalist bstards….just another sign of how corrupt and shite this world of ours has become, but it is our fault i guess – we make this world what we want and when it comes crashing down we need to eat humble pie because we put in place the easy ways for these things to happeni just hope lederer and ferguson and ivey et al, invested their stolen millions with madoff – rofl

    • It is well beyond FUBAR. There is no option players will get back even 50% of their money. FullTilt as a brand is worth well beyond zero cause they have more negatives ( I guess Ferguson f* beard and hat is worth more )… rush poker rights not suffice… It is sad but seems we must all take this as one f* bad beat. I wish only this f* will go to jail for rest of their lifes. If not well don’t forget about them and just beat the crap out of them all over the world. You get my word that they better not come to Poland or wherever close to me.

    • I labeled this a ponzi scheme the second I heard that they couldn’t repay players. If these fuckers don’t end up in jail for a LONG time, I genuinely hope someone takes the law into their own hands and gives them what they deserve. Fuck these greedy fucking motherfuckers. I always looked up to Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson back in the day when I was first getting into poker. They were the big names, and I thought they were just geniuses and I wanted to be like them. FUCKING BITCHES. This just leaves the worst fucking taste in my mouth ever. I didn’t even play Full Tilt, I can’t imagine you guys who have tons of money locked up on there. Every single dime in these mother fuckers bank accounts belongs to you guys, and I really hope you get it. All I know is there’s some rough dudes in the poker world, and Howard, Jesus, et al better watch their fucking asses.

    • Them going to jail won’t get my money back

      You know these two calculated the odds of getting caught took the risk and lost. Now it’s time for them to pay, as well FTP. This would definitely be a great civil lawsuit, one that I’ll actually fill out.

    • fucking scam artists….FTP can rot in hell. I can’t wait for Lederer and Furgeson take it up the ass in prison over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again….

    • Jesus better cut that hair before he goes to jail or else they gonna put lipstick on him and call him christina.

      pretty epic second post

    • This makes me wonder if they can rightfully collect all those deposits that they credited peoples accounts with before processing the transaction only to run up over $100 million in basically non existent money. Can they really lay down the hammer and collect that money? Cause I want my money dangit. :/

    • And now you understand the DOJ… you can expect anything from now on. Please, take care about PS, something similar could happen soon. Secure your money, maintain in the account only the necessary to play in a day and cash-out instantly when you win. I do not know what to say to people that change location to play on-line at PS, be careful, stay alert, there is nothing secure right now I guess… do you really think that your money is secure at PS? what is the firm argument? there is no such a firm argument… I guess.

    • Those of you saying, “Oh, that makes pokerstars so much better!!”, I ask you what makes you think that these other pokersites like Pokerstars (which was also indicted on black friday) arent just as corrupt, their just not dumb enough to get caught like Lederer ( Never liked the guy). …Maybe I’m wrong and Full Tilt is the ONLY site that succumbs to the darkside of greed and temptation…

      Are you really that stupid or you just didn’t have any money online because your a loooooser?
      “What makes us THINK” Stars isn’t corrupt………..Hmmmm……Let me count the dollars they IMMEDIATELY sent me upon request.

      No bull, here’s your money. thank you for playing.

      Now, if there were people on here saying how Stars never paid then you would have an argument……but since EVERYONE was paid…….you’re just a broke loser idiot!

    • It’s such a damn shame. I hope these pricks go to jail and lose everything and end up broke and destitute. It makes you wonder about pokerstars and other sites. Most people assure you that the bigger sites are legitimate, but when there are huge amounts of money involved people everywhere will be trying to steal and scheme. Who knows what’s going on online in reality. When this was happening inside Full Tilt it makes you wonder. Does anyone know who owns Pokerstars and party poker? I want to look into the character of these people.

    • More proof to the need of a regulated framework for the industry…cause when it isn’t, a mess like this is created.

      qft

    • Jesus and Lederer both probably wanting to get caught so they could finally have an excuse to take it in the ass. How stupid do you have to be to run a multi-million dollar company with no overhead into the ground? And the fact that Jesus was getting 80 million but won’t even tip dealers kills me. Greedy, stupid, gay, bastards.

    • I wonder where lederer and ferguson are hiding now? Must be quite scared somewhere now everyone knows they took customers for 100 mill

    • More proof to the need of a regulated framework for the industry…cause when it isn’t, a mess like this is created.

      Agreed on this, and the PPA agrees with you as well.

      “Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse for Full Tilt Poker”yeh ok, how bout this for an opening line….”Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse for Full Tilt Poker players owed money,”

      Point taken.

    • If this turns out to be a ponzi scheme that is planned as in not “happened by accident” due to reckless business management it is pretty incredible. If so I can’t imagine how they could think they wouldn’t get caught sooner or later. There is no “hidden” top level people here like you would have in a regular scheme. They are all high profile people that can’t hide anywhere(unless they spend the money on plastic surgery at least) and with this much money on the line they’re probably as close to dead men walking as you can get these days.I’m at least happy I felt uneasy about FT for a long time and never kept much money on that site(and didn’t play on it too much either).