Judicial raids here linked to U.S. case against online poker

Judicial agents conducted six raids Friday morning seeking individuals and evidence linked to the U.S. case against online poker companies here.

PokerStars confirmed in an email posting that its offices had been raided. The email that came from the Isle of Man said that Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet offices here had been raided by the Judicial Investigating Organization. It said about 2:20 p.m. Friday:

“PokerStars continues to operate the world’s largest poker room, business as usual. It is true that the OIJ is currently at the PokerStars Costa Rican office and has sent employees home temporarily, but employees will be able to return in a few hours. PokerStars expects the office to return to business as usual in short order as this action was most likely taken as a response to problems experienced by other local companies in the same industry.”

PokerStars is located in the Forum complex in Santa Ana. Absolute Poker is in Plaza Mayor in Rohrmoser.

The raids were expected because the United States has indicted U.S. citizens who live in Costa Rica and who are associated with the online betting operations. Although online betting is not illegal in Costa Rica, the indictments allege conspiracy and money laundering, which is illegal here.

A.M. Costa Rica reported on the indictments April 18.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, New York, announced April 15 the unsealing of indictments charging
11 defendants, including the founders of the three poker companies with bank fraud, money laundering, and illegal gambling offenses. The United States also filed a civil money laundering and forfeiture complaint against the
companies, their assets, and the assets of several payment processors. In addition, restraining orders were issued against more than 75 bank accounts used by the poker companies and their payment processors, and five .com Internet domain names used by the companies to host their games were seized, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Scott Tom and Brent Beckley, both 31 and founders of Absolute Poker, were two of the 11 persons indicted in the same action. Two other persons with Costa Rican ties, Bradley Franzen, 41, and Ira Rubin, 52, also were indicted. All are U.S. citizens. Federal authorities described Franzen and Rubin as highly compensated payment processors who helped the poker companies get around money transfer prohibitions in a 2006 U.S. law.

Rubin and Franzen have since been taken into custody. Three persons were in custody when the indictments were announced. So six are being sought. No Costa Ricans were named in the initial indictments

Among those arrested initially is John Campos, vice chairman and part owner of SunFirst Bank in Saint George, Utah. Federal officials said that he processed payments for the poker sites in exchange for a $10 million investment in the struggling bank. He was arrested in his hometown. In Las Vegas, Nevada, FBI agents detained Chad Elie, who is accused of setting up the SunFirst deal for the poker firms. He, like Rubin, was identified as a funds processor.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan took over the domain names of Absolute Poker, PokerStars and FullTilt Poker April 15. However, a subsequent agreement allowed Poker Stars and FullTilt to use the domain names to refund money being held for U.S. citizens, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Federal officials claimed that the poker firms conducted up to $3 billion in business each year.

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