Ray Bitar Pleads Guilty to Two Felony Counts

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The attorney of former Full Tilt Poker CEO Ray Bitar appeared in Manhattan court Monday as his client did the same via video from Los Angeles. As expected, Bitar pled guilty to two felony counts stemming from the Black Friday indictments of exactly two years ago.

The two counts to which Bitar pled were:

1)    Violation of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA)
2)    Conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud.

The counts carry a combined maximum sentence of 35 years followed by as many as eight years of probation. Sentencing guidelines, though, would have Bitar spend no more than about eight years in prison. As we discussed last week, despite the lengthy potential sentence, Bitar’s defense team had come to an agreement with the prosecution to allow Bitar to plead guilty and serve no time behind bars.

The reason for the generous deal is because a prison sentence would simultaneously be a death sentence for Bitar. He was diagnosed with a critical, untreatable heart condition in November, a condition classified as Class IV heart failure. According to the American Heart Association, Class IV patients cannot engage in any physical activity at all without discomfort. Doctors put his chances of survival over the next 6-12 months at only 50 percent without a heart transplant or artificial heart.

Bitar would not only not receive the necessary medical care in prison, but he almost certainly wouldn’t even be eligible for a new heart, as to be considered for a transplant, a patient cannot be facing incarceration.

Even though the prosecution agreed to the deal, there was still no guarantee that Judge Loretta Preska would even accept his guilty plea. She also did not have to agree to sentence him the same day, as his team requested, nor did she have to go along with the deal he made with the prosecution.

She did accept the guilty plea, though, and she did agree to the sentencing. Rather than getting any prison time, Bitar was sentenced to time served, which was just one week between being arrested in July 2012 and released on bail. He didn’t get off scot free, though. Bitar will be cleaned out of essentially everything he has in this world, including $40 million he made while at Full Tilt, real estate, and investments. He will even have to find a new place to live, as he will be handing over the house in which he now lives in California.

According to Diamond Flush of DiamondFlushPoker.com, Bitar read from a prepared statement admitted to his crimes. He said he and other executives worked with payment processors to disguise online poker transactions from banks. He also admitted to misleading customers by saying their funds were “safe and secure” when they were not. Bitar apologized for what he did, saying he knew his actions were both illegal and wrong.

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