According to a report by the Associated Press, Brent Beckley, co-founder of the online poker room Absolute Poker, pleaded guilty Tuesday to the criminal charge of Conspiracy to Commit Bank and Wire Fraud. The charge was one of nine listed in the indictment of a total of eleven principals and financial intermediaries of Absolute Poker, Full Tilt Poker, and PokerStars, which was unsealed in the United States District Court of the Southern District of New York on April 15th, known in the poker community as Black Friday.
Appearing before Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Beckley admitted that he knew what he was doing was wrong. “I knew that it was illegal to deceive the banks,” he said.
The 52-page indictment described the scheme to circumvent the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, saying, in part, that Beckley “…worked with and directed other to apply incorrect transaction codes to…internet gambling transactions in order to disguise the nature of those transactions and create the false appearance that the transactions were completely unrelated to internet gambling.”
It also read, “At various times alleged in this Indictment…Brent Beckley…worked with other members of the conspiracy to create such fictitious companies – including phony online flower shops and pet supply stores – that established Visa and MasterCard merchant processing accounts with offshore banks.”
Brent Beckley’s sentencing date will be April 19th. The plea deal calls for him to serve between a year and a year and a half in prison.
As a result of the Black Friday indictments, the domain names of Absolute Poker, Full Tilt Poker, and PokerStars were seized and player funds were frozen. On May 10th, Absolute Poker announced that it had come to an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice that was “an important step towards the safe and efficient return of funds to our U.S. players.”
U.S. player funds have yet to be returned.
Absolute Poker has been all but dead since Black Friday. On May 5th, Blanca Gaming, parent company of Absolute Poker and its sister site, UB, announced that it was releasing almost its entire workforce, retaining just a skeleton crew to attempt to continue non-U.S. operations. The next day, Costa Rican law enforcement officials raided the offices of Innovative Data Solutions (IDS), the customer service center for both online poker rooms, reportedly looking for the companies’ executives. The following Monday, all U.S.-based sponsored pros of the poker rooms were released from their contracts.
The non-U.S. operations of Absolute Poker and UB have amounted to virtually nil, as according to PokerScout.com, Absolute and UB’s Cereus Network has averaged just 11 cash game players over the last seven days.