On April 5th, the Financial Times’ Joe Menn published an article outlining a potential grand jury investigation of Full Tilt Poker. The London news outlet is one of the few mainstream sites to have reported on the case, leaving many in the industry to question the future of the legal action.
Menn’s article, which appeared in the longstanding British media outlet two weeks ago to the day, contended that the investigation by U.S. officials focused on money laundering charges: “According to the subpoena, the investigation is examining whether gambling and money laundering laws have been broken.” The investigation purportedly targets Full Tilt Poker and the Financial Times cited Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson as two of the parties of interest.
An attorney with an insider’s view of the relevant players in the investigation told Poker News Daily that he doubted the existence of a grand jury investigation: “The story in the Financial Times is curious for the complete absence of any sources substantiating the allegations. What documents could they possibly have that say Full Tilt Poker is under a grand jury investigation?” The April 5th article cites “people familiar with the case and a subpoena issued to a witness this week” as its main sources. Eric Jackson, who represents Lederer and Ferguson, told the Financial Times that he knew nothing of the investigation. Jackson reiterated his sentiments to Poker News Daily on Monday, saying, “I’m not aware of any grand jury investigation of Tiltware or any related entities or individuals.”
Some industry officials have questioned why the Financial Times was the only mainstream news outlet covering the rumored grand jury investigation. A bundle of poker news sites like the one you’re reading have picked up on the case, but outlets like the Associated Press and Reuters have not reported on it. Menn told Poker News Daily on Monday, “I’ve been covering the industry for years. I have a number of sources in the industry.” Menn has published a bevy of stories on the topic of internet gambling and recently published a book entitled, “”Fatal System Error: The Hunt for the New Crime Lords Who are Bringing Down the Internet.”
Also backing up Menn is Cyrus Sanai, the lawyer who represents Lary Kennedy and Greg Omotoy in their suit against Full Tilt Poker over bot usage. According to the suit, more than $80,000 was “confiscated” from their accounts and “Full Tilt and the Individual Defendants have publicly stated that Kennedy’s success as a player was due to her employing or being assisted by a poker robot.”
Sanai told Poker News Daily why Menn broke the grand jury story: “He’s the only one who is actually looking. It’s a ‘B’ story in the grand scheme of things. Joe has been writing about online gambling and his beat is cyber crime. No one else was really paying attention. No one has been assigned by an editor to do an original report.”
On April 6th, one day following the Financial Times article, Sanai filed a response in the bot case in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. He explained, “Defendants desire to seal [Sanai’s] ex parte motion for a continuance and early discovery. The grounds are that Plaintiffs’ motion discusses a grand jury investigating the Defendants. However, virtually simultaneously, the Financial Times ran an article disclosing the same information.”
According to Sanai, Full Tilt’s lawyers purportedly wanted to seal Sanai’s motion because it discussed the newly discovered grand jury investigation: “The grounds for a motion to seal are not only not met, the request is entirely frivolous and made in bad faith.” Sanai noted that the “the news [of the possible grand jury investigation] has spread like wildfire through the poker community” and even quotes a Poker News Daily story on the issue. However, the court denied the motion to seal.
The grand jury is purportedly honing in on money laundering charges, speculation that several sources Poker News Daily spoke to confirmed. Sanai added that the investigation was “going to come down to an indictment,” although a timeline is currently unknown. A hearing on the Kennedy case is slated for next Monday.
Stay tuned to Poker News Daily for the latest on the rumored grand jury investigation of Full Tilt Poker.