What you need to know about Ray Bitar’s arrest

Posted by Steve Ruddock on Jul 05, 2012 Posted in Legal Poker News, Online Poker News | No Comments »

One of the biggest stories in the poker world over the past couple of days was Full Tilt Poker CEO Ray Bitar surrendering to US authorities stemming from civil and criminal indictments handed down on Black Friday (April 15, 2011). Bitar turned himself in at John F Kennedy airport in New York City, after sending an E-Mail to Full Tilt poker employees detailing that the surrender was “part of the process” in order to finalize the deal for PokerStars to purchase the struggling company.

Bitar’s arrest gave many in the poker world the hope that the deal will be announced very soon, as it was unlikely that Bitar would willfully surrender (considering the numerous, and very serious, charges he faces) if he had not already come to an agreement with the Department of Justice.

Bitar made a statement after being taken into custody that further points to PokerStars soon taking over Full Tilt Poker, thus ending a very long road for many players who have funds locked-up on the site. Here is an excerpt of an article written by Forbes Magazine’s Nathan Vardi that includes Bitar statement:

I returned voluntarily to the U.S. from Full Tilt’s headquarters in Ireland to face the charges against me,” Bitar said in a statement. “I know that a lot of people are very angry at me. I understand why. Full Tilt should never have gotten into a position where it could not repay player funds.” Bitar added: “For the last 15 months, I have worked hard on possible solutions to get the players repaid. Returning today is part of that process. I believe we are near the end of a very long road, and I will continue to do whatever is required to get the players repaid, and I hope that it will happen soon.”

Once in custody Bitar learned of another new charge he will be facing, for running a Ponzi scheme after April 11, 2012, and could face up to 145 years in prison. At a hearing in a New York courtroom on Monday, Bitar pleaded “not guilty” to all of the charges he faces. Like many of the other indicted Black Friday individuals, it’s likely Bitar will plea down to minor offenses while helping the US DOJ form a case against at-large individuals.

Bitar’s arrest could also bring closure to the charges leveled against Full Tilt Poker Board of Directors members’ Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, and Rafe Furst, all three of whom were named in civil indictments, and had multiple bank accounts frozen. It’s quite possible that Bitar will cooperate with the US DOJ, shedding light on the other owners’ roles with the company, which could bring about even more indictments and seizures.

The main thing poker players are interested in is, what Bitar’s arrest will mean for the repayment of their Full Tilt Poker funds. Considering the timing, and the statements made by Bitar (specifically citing the PokerStars deal) it seems like the deal will be announced sooner rather than later.

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