The Australian payment processor who may have been the U.S. government’s key to the Black Friday indictments is set to become the prosecution’s star witness against two of the men named in those indictments, according to the Australian Associated Press. Daniel Tzvetkoff, former owner of Intabill, will appear in a New York courtroom on April 9th to testify on behalf of the prosecution in the trial of online poker payment processor Chad Elie and SunFirst Bank executive John Campos.
Elie and Campos are charged with three counts of violating the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA), one count of conspiracy to violate said UIGEA, conspiracy to engage in money laundering, and two counts of operating illegal gambling businesses. Elie also faces a second count of operating an illegal gambling business and one count of conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud.
The two men requested their cases be thrown out, in part because of the U.S. Department of Justice’s December clarification that the Wire Act of 1961 only makes online sports betting illegal, not poker or other gambling. A federal judge denied the request.
Tzvetkoff ran Intabill, a payment processing company which worked with the likes of Absolute Poker, Full Tilt Poker, and PokerStars. At its peak, Intabill was taking as much as $1 million per day from over 5,000 customers in 70 countries. Tzvetkoff was arrested on April 15th, 2010, exactly one year before Black Friday and charged with money laundering, gambling conspiracy, and bank fraud. Rather than marking the transactions as going to and from online poker rooms, Tzvetkoff reported them as being used for “repayments of short-term loans, transfer of funds to prepaid debit cards, and e-commerce purchases,” according to the Dow Jones Newswire at the time. He faced 75 years in prison for his crimes.
Surprisingly, however, Daniel Tzvetkoff was released on bail just five months later. When the excitement of Black Friday went down last year, Business Insider reported that it was Tzvetkoff that pointed the U.S. government towards the eleven men named in the indictments. Business Insider looked at his release from prison seven months earlier as the turning point in the investigation:
“Last April, Tzvetkoff was arrested in Las Vegas and charged with the same crimes those sites founders were charged with today: money laundering, bank fraud, wire fraud. As an Australian citizen with a lot of wealth, he was considered a flight risk and denied bail. Then after a ‘secret’ meeting with prosecutors, he was suddenly out on bail. And now, his former colleagues are the ones facing serious jail time.”
Ironically enough, PokerStars and Full Tilt may have actually clued in the FBI as to where to find Daniel Tzvetkoff, leading to his arrest. Had he not been caught (and nobody is really sure why he set foot in the U.S. when he had to know that was dangerous), there is a chance that Black Friday would not have happened. That is not to say that the U.S. Department of Justice would never have caught up to Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars, and Absolute Poker, but it may not have happened yet.