Did the DOJ let Howard Lederer off easy?

Posted by Steve Ruddock on Dec 20, 2012 Posted in Legal Poker News, Op-Ed | No Comments »

On Tuesday a settlement was reached between Howard Lederer and the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) stemming from the amended civil charges Lederer faced for his role as an owner and executive at Full Tilt Poker. The amended civil complaints against Lederer, Rafe Furst and Chris Ferguson were brought about in September 2011, adding civil charges against the three FTP Board members to the indictments (both civil and criminal) handed out to Nelson Burtnick and Ray Bitar on April 15, 2011 (AKA Black Friday).

Lederer was estimated to have earned over $40 million from his disbursements from Full Tilt Poker, and the government was initially looking for all of that money. The final amount was far less than this, amounting to barely over $1 million when all was said and done, which has caused many in the poker world to throw their arms up in disgust at the mere slap on the wrist Lederer received, which begs the question: Was Howard Lederer let off the hook by the DOJ?

Lederer’s settlement was similar to Rafe Furst’s, which was submitted just a few weeks ago. In the settlement Lederer forfeited a number of assets including bank accounts, a retirement fund, several properties (or proceeds from the sales of said properties), and even a 1965 Shelby Cobra, but like Furst before him Lederer admitted to no wrongdoing and cannot be prosecuted further; effectively ending his role with FTP and Black Friday.

You can read the entire Stipulation and Order of Settlement here: http://docs.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/new-york/nysdce/1:2011cv02564/377900/295/

4flush.com also has more on the details of the settlement.

At first glance it appears the DOJ could have not only civilly charged Lederer, but possibly criminally, considering they found enough evidence to bring criminal charges against a number of people on Black Friday, including Full Tilt Poker CEO Ray Bitar, who is still awaiting trial. That being said, proving a criminal conspiracy as opposed to negligence and poor ownership could prove a near impossible task for prosecutors –which would be the threshold the government would need to pass in the case of Howard Lederer and the other Full Tilt Poker owners.

So even though many people in the poker community may feel Lederer has gotten off very easy, there is always the problem of proving guilt, and not just suspecting someone of wrongdoing, no matter how guilty the person looks –we’ve already seen this issue come up when some players attempted to start a petition to ban Lederer from Las Vegas poker rooms, causing even Lederer opponents to cry foul, and declare “Innocent until proven guilty.”

So, even if Lederer’s settlement has left you feeling unsatisfied, keep in mind that we still have no proof of what Howard did and didn’t know, and what his intentions really were. We can all have our opinions on the matter, but in the end we are not judge and jury. How Lederer is viewed by the poker community as a whole is a different matter entirely, and I firmly expect poker players to make him a persona non gratis at card-rooms around the globe.


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