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  1. In an article that appeared late last month on MontanaKaimin.com, Absolute Poker co-founder Brent Beckley (pictured, image courtesy August Miller Photo) talked about the history of what was once one of the largest online poker rooms in the world. Then, Black Friday forced Absolute and its sister site, UB.com, out of the American market. Later, the rooms reportedly entered liquidation with no sign that players will ever receive any of their funds back. "That sounds like the dumbest idea I've ever heard. Online poker?" That was the response of Pete Barovich when Scott Tom asked him to join his online poker team. Beckley, who was working an internship at the time in 2002, helped out the group after his job had finished for the day. As the article explained, Beckley originally turned down a permanent job offer from Tom to work on Absolute Poker: "In May, 2003, Beckley graduated with a 2.80 GPA in business administration and finance. Tom called Beckley and asked him to join the business, which they had since moved to Costa Rica. 'No, man. Now I've got a degree. I'm a college graduate. I'm going to get a real job," Beckley said." Beckley ultimate obliged and headed to Costa Rica after repeated phone calls from Tom. The article noted that when the World Poker Tour began airing on TV, registrations for Absolute Poker shot up from 20 to 2,000 – per day. As Beckley told reporters, "It was so much fun. We would all work 16 to 18 hours a day. And every time we would go to lunch together or we'd go to dinner together or go out at night, we were talking about work. It was just like this incredible group think where that was what we did." With all of its success, the company set its sights on going public, following in the footsteps of Party Gaming, but needed one more year of audited financial statements in order to do so. Before the year was over, however, the world came tumbling down around them. At the time, the company was reportedly worth $100 million and revenues were sitting around $40 million annually. According to the article, "Lawyers were unclear about the [2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act] and thought it wouldn't last, Beckley said. The legislation required the US Treasury Department to define how banks were going to work within the new law, which wouldn't happen for another three years, in 2009." Beckley said, "It just didn't seem right that the Government could pass this piece of vague legislation in the middle of the night and take it away from us." In order to continue processing transactions, "Beckley started working with companies that processed payments differently. Overseas banks would label poker transactions as sales for t-shirts, golf balls, or other items so the US banks would release the funds." This alleged bank fraud would ultimately become the centerpiece of the US Government's clampdown on Black Friday exactly three years ago. Beckley, who was 31 at the time, faced charges including conspiracy to violate the UIGEA, violating the UIGEA, operating an illegal gambling business, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracy. Beckley gave his take on the transaction coding to MontanaKaimin.com: "It wasn't about being shady, it was about letting the customers do what they wanted to and about keeping our business running." Beckley and Tom (pictured) were among 11 people indicted on Black Friday and the former was ultimately sentenced to 14 months behind bars. As for Tom, "[He] was vacationing in Antigua with his girlfriend. He decided to stay where he was and remains there today, Beckley said. The Federal Government considers him 'at large.'" Barovich visited Beckley in prison, telling the site, "What we were doing, again, it's not even for argument, what we were doing wasn't wrong… Technically it's what they call a victimless crime. That means no one person or no one company was damaged." Beckley was reportedly released from jail four months early. Read more by checking out the MontanaKaimin.com article. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  2. [caption width="640"] Scott Tom plead not guilty to the Black Friday charges in a Manhattan court room on Friday.[/caption] Almost six years after Black Friday, Absolute Poker founder Scott Tom has returned to the United States to face charges that he violated the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and was engaged in bank fraud and money laundering. Tom, now 37, voluntary arrived back in the United States on Thursday and after a brief hearing where he plead not guilty to the charges, was released on a $500,000 bond. Tom, along with 11 others, was indicted on April 15, 2011 as part of what became known as ‘Black Friday’ in the online poker industry. Tom’s lawyer, James Henderson, told Reuters that the case will ultimately be concluded via plea deal. "There's going to be a resolution in this case quickly," Henderson said. Another Absolute Poker employee and Tom’s step brother, Brent Beckley, served 14 months after pleading guilty to the bank and wire fraud charges. Rumors indicate Beckley may again be working in the offshore gaming world after joining BetOnline.com in a management capacity. Should Tom, who had been rumored to be living in Antigua since just after Black Friday, come to an agreement with prosecutors, he will be the 10th person charged on April 15, 2011 to resolve the charges. The only person named in the indictments that day that has yet to actually face the charges in some way is PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg. Absolute Poker, which was the parent company of scandal-ridden UltimateBet, was the third largest online poker room in the world at the time of the shutdown. While PokerStars made U.S. customers whole almost immediately and then purchased Full Tilt Poker and supplied those customers with their funds, Absolute Poker and UltimateBet have never returned any funds to players who had a balance on Black Friday. In November, Paul Tate, the Director of Payments for PokerStars, also returned to the U.S. and plead guilty. After paying a small six-figure fine, he was released without having to serve jail time.

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