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Wednesday 31 May 2023 Dublin: 14°C
Michael_Spencer via Creative Commons
Director of Dublin-based online poker company charged with fraud in US
Eleven people and three major poker sites – PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker – facing a number of different charges relating to unlawful internet gambling.

THE DIRECTOR OF AN online poker company based in Cherrywood Science and Technology Park, Dublin, is one of 11 people charged in New York yesterday in relation to illegal online gambling and bank fraud.

Raymond Bitar, 39, is one of the directors of the Dublin-based Pocket Kings, a subsidiary of the major poker company he helped found, Full Tilt Poker. Pocket Kings, which employs around several hundred people in Dublin, has not been named in the US investigation.

Yesterday, the US Attorney’s Office and the FBI released a list of charges being brought against Bitar. He and another of those charged, Nelson Burtnick, 40, are listed as having residences in Ireland.

In all, 11 people connected with three of the biggest names in online poker have been charged on a range of counts including money laundering, bank fraud and the operation of illegal gambling.

If found guilty of the latter, the defendants could be forced to forfeit the proceeds of any proven offences or serve five years in prison. The US authorities said they are seeking “at least $3bn in civil money laundering penalties and forfeiture from the poker companies and the defendants”.


Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement:

As charged, these defendants concocted an elaborate criminal fraud scheme, alternately tricking some US banks and effectively bribing others to assure the continued flow of billions in illegal gambling profits. Moreover, as we allege, in their zeal to circumvent the gambling laws, the defendants also engaged in massive money laundering and bank fraud.

Janice K Fedaracyk, FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge, said: “The defendants bet the house that they could continue their scheme, and they lost.”

A court order restraining around 76 bank accounts in 14 countries has been issued.

The statement from Bharara’s office claims that “defendants Isai Scheinberg and Paul Tate of PokerStars, Raymond Bitar and Nelson Burtnick of Full Tilt Poker, and Scott Tom and Brent Beckley of Absolute Poker, arranged for the money received from US gamblers to be disguised as payments to hundreds of non-existent online merchants purporting to sell merchandise such as jewellery and golf balls.”

PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker are also accused of persuading “the principals of a few small, local banks facing financial difficulties to engage in such processing in return for multi-million dollar investments in the banks.”

A number of those charged, including Bitar and Burtnick, have not been arrested as they are not currently in the US. The New York District Attorney has indicated it is engaging with foreign law enforcement agencies in relation to the charges, but could not be reached today for further comment.

“Surprised and disappointed”

The AP reports that Full Tilt Poker released a statement defending its executives named in the indictment, including Nelson Burtnick and its chief executive Raymond Bitar. Bitar said:

I am surprised and disappointed by the government’s decision to bring these charges. I look forward to Mr Burtnick’s and my exoneration.

PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker have both said they have suspended play for real money from the US, though Full Tilt continues to offer online gambling from other countries.

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