Sunday, April 17, 2011

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(Reuters) - The owners of three of the largest Internet poker companies operating in the United States were accused on Friday of tricking regulators and banks into processing billions of dollars of illegal Internet gambling proceeds.
Eleven people, including the owners of Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker and PokerStars, were charged with violating U.S. anti-Internet gambling laws, according to charges filed by federal prosecutors in Manhattan.
Prosecutors also filed civil money laundering charges seeking to recover at least $3 billion from the companies, which are all based overseas, court documents said.
The Internet domain names of the companies were also seized. Representatives for the companies could not immediately be reached to comment on the charges.
Two of the men were arrested on Friday, one is expected to turn himself in to law enforcement and eight others are not currently in the United States, prosecutors said.
Raymond Bitar, 39, of Full Tilt Poker and Isai Scheinberg, 64, of PokerStars were charged with violating the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and other laws. Absolute Poker owners Brent Beckley, 31, and Scott Tom, 31, faced similar charges.
The criminal charges outlined a scheme by the company owners and some of their employees to direct the gambling profits to online shell companies that would appear legitimate to banks processing payments.
The charges are part of a crackdown on Internet gambling in the United States, where it has been illegal since 2006.
In March, Wynn Resorts Ltd said it had entered into a partnership with PokerStars, and that they would work for passage of U.S. legislation on Internet poker.
U.S. lawmakers have in the past tried to pass legislation legalizing Internet gambling in the hope of reaping billions in tax revenue.
(Reporting by Basil Katz; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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