PokerStars Founder Isai Scheinberg Pleads Guilty to Black Friday Charges

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Isai Scheinberg, PokerStars founder, faces five years in prison after pleading guilty to charges stemming from Black Friday. (PokerStars photo)

Updated March 26, 10:30 AM ET

Nearly nine years after the United States Government Department of Justice charged the owners of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker with operating illegal gambling businesses, in what became known in the poker world as Black Friday, the final defendant has pleaded guilty.

Isai Scheinberg, the 73-year-old founder of PokerStars, plead guilty on Wednesday to one count of operating an illegal gambling business. He now faces a maximum of five years in prison.

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“Ten years ago, this Office charged 11 defendants who operated, or provided fraudulent payment processing services to, three of the largest online poker companies then operating in the United States – PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker – with operating illegal gambling businesses and other crimes. As Isai Scheinberg’s guilty plea today shows, the passage of time will not undermine this Office’s commitment to holding accountable individuals who violate U.S. law,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said.

Scheinberg will be sentenced at a later date.

“Mr. Scheinberg is pleased to put this matter behind him and that all charges other than violating the 1971 Gambling Act have been dropped. Notably, all PokerStars players were paid back immediately and Mr. Scheinberg played an important role in ensuring that all of the players from other sites were repaid as well,” read a statement released by a representative of Scheinberg.

In January, Scheinberg flew from Switzerland to New York City after negotiating with the U.S. government over the previous three months. During his first court appearance, federal prosecutor Olga Zverovich told a hearing that Scheinberg had been negotiating with the government and had an “agreement in principle” at the time.

Scheinberg founded PokerStars in 2001 and grew the company into the largest online poker operator in the world. In the aftermath of Black Friday, the company continued to operate outside of the United States and eventually settled a civil lawsuit with the U.S. government by paying a $731 million fine.

Scheinberg sold the company to a group lead by David Baazov in 2014 for $4.9 billion.

The other 10 charged on Black Friday, Ray Bitar, Scott Tom, Brent Beckley, Nelson Burtnick, Paul Tate, Ryan Lang, Bradley Franzen, Ira Rubin, Chad Elie, and John Campos had all previously dealt with their charges.