TWO IRISH subsidiaries of online poker group Full Tilt are named as defendants in a case being taken by the US department of justice claiming that the company used player funds to pay $440 million to owners and board members.
Earlier this week US attorney Preet Bharara filed a complaint with a New York court claiming that Full Tilt used $440 million in players’ funds to pay various sums to directors Raymond Bitar, Howard Lederer, Christopher Ferguson and Rafael Furst.
Two Irish-based Full Tilt companies – Pocket Kings Ltd and Pocket Kings Consulting Ltd – are included in the list of defendants on the formal complaint filed by Mr Bharara earlier this week.
Pocket Kings is based in Cherrywood in Dublin and provides software, IT, customer and management services to Full Tilt. It employs 800 people but recently warned that up to 250 of those jobs were under threat as Channel Island regulators have suspended its gambling licences, which in turn forced it to shut down its websites.
Mr Bitar, who has an address in Bermuda, is named as a director of both companies. He is a shareholder in Pocket Kings Ltd and a director of Tiltware, a US entity which holds the entire issued share capital of Pocket Kings Consulting Ltd.
Mr Bharara filed a motion to amend the original charges, filed last April, alleging that Full Tilt engaged in money laundering and bank fraud in the US.
The attorney said this week that Full Tilt was not a “legitimate poker company, but a global Ponzi scheme” that cheated its own players and misled them about the safety of the funds that they had deposited with the company.
His claim states that despite Full Tilt’s written assurances to all players that the money in their accounts is segregated from the company’s own operational accounts, this was not the case.
He also claims that by the end of March, Full Tilt owed $390 million to players around the world, $150 million of it to players in the US, but had only $60 million in its bank accounts.
In early June, Mr Lederer reported to others in the company that there was only about $6 million left. Later that month he warned that if there were a “run” of clients seeking the return of their cash, the company would have had problems meeting $5 million of those liabilities.
According to Mr Bharara’s calculations, between April 2001 and 2011, Full Tilt and its board distributed $41 million to Mr Bitar, $42 million to Mr Lederer and $11.7 million to Mr Furst.
Mr Ferguson was allocated $87.5 million in distributions, and received $25 million of this, while the rest was “owed” to him.
“Much of the money that was distributed was transferred by the board members and owners to accounts in Switzerland and other overseas locations,” a statement issued by Mr Bharara’s office says.
The court has not tried the allegations made by the US attorney. Mr Bharara’s statement points out that they are “accusations only”.
A number of regulators, including Alderney’s Gambling Control Commission in the Channel Islands, have suspended Full Tilt’s licence. Alderney reviewed this at a private hearing in London this week.