A recent statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York states that Full Tilt poker players with unpaid balances on account at the troubled online poker site may possibly see the return of their bankrolls.
Although the statement makes no promises or commitments to Full Tilt players who have been waiting and hoping to get their money back, the announcement comes as a welcome surprise to many.
“The return of forfeited funds to victims of the alleged fraud may be possible, but will depend on several factors, including the successful conclusion of the litigation, the amount of funds seized and ordered forfeited by the court, and compliance with other procedures the Department of Justice may eventually establish regarding return of forfeited funds to victims who lost money as a result of the alleged fraudulent conduct,” the statement said.
The statement was published on the Department of Justice website just nine days after the U.S Attorney office’s filed their amended civil complaint against Full Tilt and its board members Chris Ferguson, Howard Lederer and Rafael Furst, charging the poker pros with fraud and money laundering. The legal action is attempting to seize the assets the Full Tilt board members received from profit-sharing and distribution payments.
The statement further goes on to say that after the events of Black Friday that culminated in the seizure of Full Tilt’s domain name, the U.S. Attorney’s office and Full Tilt entered into an agreement authorizing Full Tilt to return funds to its poker players. But as is now known from the allegations in the amended civil complaint, Full Tilt did not have the funds to pay its loyal players because Full Tilt had “transferred significant amounts of players’ real money deposits to principals of the company,” and allowed players to continue to play poker with money that was deposited to their accounts but was not able to be credited to Full Tilt due to problems with third-party payment processors.
Here, in its entirety, is the statement issued by The United States Department of Justice, Southern District of New York:
United States v. Pokerstars et al., 11 Civ. 2564 (LBS) (Full Tilt Poker information)
After the amended complaint in United States v. Pokerstars et al., 11 Civ. 2564 (LBS), was filed on September 22, 2011, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York received a number of new inquiries from individuals regarding the recovery of their funds from Full Tilt Poker.
By way of background, in April of 2011, this Office entered into a domain-name use agreement with Full Tilt Poker. That agreement, among other things, expressly authorized Full Tilt Poker to return player funds to players. However, as the September 22 amended complaint alleges, Full Tilt Poker did not in fact have player funds on hand to return to players. Instead, the amended complaint alleges that Full Tilt Poker had, among other things, (a) transferred significant amounts of players’ real money deposits to principals of the company, while (b) allowing many players to continue to gamble, and “win” and “lose,” with phantom credits in their player accounts.
At this time, this Office, together with the FBI and other agencies, is attempting to trace, secure and forfeit as much as possible of the funds derived from operation of the fraud committed by Full Tilt Poker and its board members that is alleged in the amended complaint. The Office is also attempting to obtain and examine the books and records of Full Tilt Poker. Many of those books and records are kept overseas. The return of forfeited funds to victims of the alleged fraud may be possible, but will depend on several factors, including the successful conclusion of the litigation, the amount of funds seized and ordered forfeited by the court, and compliance with other procedures the Department of Justice may eventually establish regarding return of forfeited funds to victims who lost money as a result of the alleged fraudulent conduct.
We cannot predict the duration of proceedings in this case, other than to state that they will last for many months at the least. We will apprise victims of the alleged fraud of future developments as appropriate. General information regarding what is known as “remission” (i.e., return to victims) of funds that have been seized and forfeited is set forth in Department of Justice regulations found at 28 C.F.R. Part 9.
If you happen to be a former Full Tilt player waiting to get your bankroll returned, this is obviously good news. However, as the statement pointed out, litigation of this nature will take a very long time to run its course.
The Alderney Gaming Control Commission has issued a statement revoking Full Tilt Poker’s operating license. It is not fully known whether the revocation will have any bearing on the return of funds to Full Tilt poker players. However, one can surmise that since the statement issued by the DOJ discusses payment to players directly from the DOJ, Full Tilt’s license revocation would appear to not be of any consequence.