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Bitter Bitar Arrested

Full Tilt Poker head insists upon his innocence

Bitter Bitar Arrested

The highest-ranking executive named in the April 2011 “Black Friday” indictments surrendered in New York last month. Ray Bitar, the chairman of Full Tilt Poker, was arrested at Kennedy Airport when he returned for the first time from Ireland, the headquarters of Full Tilt. An amended indictment was revealed at his arraignment, charging him with nine counts, including operating a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme. The indictment also named Nelson Burtnick, director of payment processing at Full Tilt, for the first time.

The California native acknowledged he is not the most popular man in the poker world right now.

“I know that a lot of people are very angry at me,” said Bitar. “I understand why. Full Tilt should never have gotten into a position where it could not repay player funds.”

Bitar was arraigned in a New York court and held on $2.5 million bond until he could satisfy conditions of the bond. Prosecutors had asked that Bitar be held without bond, considering him a high flight risk. Bitar pleaded not guilty, but prosecutors presented evidence that Bitar is indeed culpable. He was released on bail two weeks later.

U.S. Attorney Arlo Devlin-Brown said, despite claims to the contrary, that Full Tilt intermingled player funds with corporate funds. He said authorities had determined that Full Tilt had distributed $430 million to investors and insiders, leaving only $60 million to $70 million in the corporation. Bitar himself, alleges Devlin-Brown, was paid more than $40 million.

Even after the Black Friday indictments, Full Tilt continued to take bets from players around the world.

“By then this company was little more than a Ponzi scheme, and his presence was needed to keep it from unraveling,” Devlin-Brown said.

The FBI concurred.

“Bitar and Full Tilt Poker persisted in soliciting U.S. gamblers long after such conduct was outlawed,” Janice K. Fedarcyk, assistant director-in-charge at the FBI, said in a statement. “Now he stands accused of defrauding Full Tilt’s customers by concealing its cash-poor condition and paying off early creditors with deposits from later customers.”

Bitar denies the allegation, claiming that he’s spent the last year and a half trying to make restitution to Full Tilt players.

“Returning today is part of that process,” he said. “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.”

Devlin-Brown scoffed at that explanation, saying it “strains all credibility.” He said Bitar was about to be extradited from Ireland, as his office had been working with Irish authorities to get all the paperwork in place.


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