Full Tilt Poker CEO Ray Bitar Surrenders to U.S. Authorities

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Ray Bitar, the chief executive officer of Full Tilt Poker and one of 11 men indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice on Black Friday, surrendered to U.S. authorities on Monday.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York confirmed to PokerNews that Bitar gave himself up to the FBI in New York. Bitar is facing five charges for his role at Full Tilt Poker, including conspiracy to violate the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), operation of illegal gambling business, and money laundering conspiracy.

Monday’s news initially broke on the TwoPlusTwo forums, where a reputable member leaked an internal email allegedly sent by Bitar to staffers in Ireland. In the email, Bitar explains that his return to the U.S. is "part of the process" in completing the pending deal with PokerStars and the Department of Justice.

"We have all worked hard over the last 15 months to preserve Full Tilt’s assets and potential in order to provide for the repayment of all players, and that continues to be our top priority," Bitar writes. "It is as important as ever that we all do everything possible to make that happen and, hopefully our deal with Poker Stars will very soon make our goal a reality."

UPDATE: PokerNews has received an updated indictment signed by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara that details Bitar’s efforts to cover up Full Tilt Poker’s liquidity problems after the original indictment was released on April 15, 2011.

UPDATE July 2 15:30 PDT: The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York issued a press release on Ray Bitar’s arrest. According to the release, Bitar was arrested Monday morning at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“With today’s arrest and the new charges brought against him, Raymond Bitar will now be held criminally responsible for the alleged multi-million fraud he perpetrated on his U.S. customers. The indictment alleges how Bitar bluffed his player-customers and fixed the game against them as part of an international Ponzi scheme that left players empty-handed," said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

According to the superseding indictment that was unsealed on Monday, Bitar is charged with nine counts and faces a maximum of 145 years in prison.

“Bitar and Full Tilt Poker persisted in soliciting U.S. gamblers long after such conduct was outlawed. As alleged, Bitar has already been charged with defrauding banks to conceal the illegal gambling. 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. The on-line casino become an Internet Ponzi scheme," said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk.

Nelson Burtnick, also named in the superseding indictment, faces eight counts.

Here are the counts as outlined in the press release:

COUNT DEFENDANT(S) CHARGE MAXIMUM PENALTIES
1 Bitar, Burtnick Conspiracy to Violate UIGEA Five years in prison; $250,000 fine or twice the gain or loss from offense; three years of supervised release
2 Bitar, Burtnick Violation of UIGEA – Full Tilt Poker Five years in prison; $250,000 fine or twice the gain or loss from offense; three years of supervised release
3 Bitar, Burtnick Operation of Illegal Gambling Business – Full Tilt Poker Five years in prison; $250,000 fine or twice the gain or loss from offense; three years of supervised release; forfeiture of proceeds of offense
4 Bitar, Burtnick Conspiracy to Defraud Banks 30 years in prison; $1,000,00 fine or twice the gain or loss from offense; five years of supervised release; forfeiture of proceeds of offense
5 Bitar Wire Fraud 20 years in prison; $250,000 fine or twice the gain or loss from offense; three years of supervised release
6 Bitar Wire Fraud 20 years in prison; $250,000 fine or twice the gain or loss from offense; three years of supervised release
7 Bitar Wire Fraud 20 years in prison; $250,000 fine or twice the gain or loss from offense; three years of supervised release
8 Bitar, Burtnick Money Laundering Conspiracy, Promotion 20 years in prison; $500,000 fine or twice the amount laundered; three years of supervised release; forfeiture of proceeds of offense
9 Bitar, Burtnick Money Laundering Conspiracy, Use of Funds 20 years in prison; $250,000 fine or twice the amount laundered or twice the gain or loss; three years of supervised release; forfeiture of proceeds of offense
10 Burtnick Violation of UIGEA – Pokerstars Five years in prison; $250,000 fine or twice the gain or loss from offense; three years of supervised release
11 Burtnick Operation of Illegal Gambling Business – PokerStars Five years in prison; $250,000 fine or twice the gain or loss from offense; three years of supervised release; forfeiture of proceeds of offense

PokerNews will have more on this story as it develops. Follow PokerNews on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news.