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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, April 10, 2017

Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Compensation Program For Absolute Poker Victim Players

Also Announces Payments to Date of Over $118 Million to Full Tilt Poker Victim Players

Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that the United States has retained the Garden City Group (“GCG”) to oversee a process for compensating eligible victims of a fraud committed by Absolute Poker against United States players who were unable to withdraw funds from Absolute Poker following the Office’s filing in 2011 of a civil money laundering and forfeiture action against Absolute Poker and others in United States v. PokerStars, et al. 

GCG is already overseeing the claims process for eligible victims of the fraud committed by Full Tilt Poker against United States players, as described in both United States v. PokerStars, et al., and the indictment in the parallel criminal case, United States v. Bitar, et. al.  To date, approximately $118 million has been paid to Full Tilt Poker fraud victims through that process. 

Background

In July 2012, the United States entered into settlement agreements with Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars – two of the three online poker companies named as defendants in a civil forfeiture action brought by the United States alleging bank fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and illegal gambling offenses.  On July 16, 2013, the third online poker company named in the complaint, Absolute Poker, along with certain of its affiliates, entered into a settlement agreement in which they also agreed to the forfeiture of their assets.  Under the terms of the July 2012 settlement with Full Tilt Poker, the company agreed to forfeit virtually all of its assets to the United States (the “Forfeited Full Tilt Assets”) in order to fully resolve the action. The amended complaint filed in that action alleged that Full Tilt Poker defrauded its players by misrepresenting to the public that player funds held by Full Tilt Poker were safe, secure, and available for withdrawal at any time.  In reality, the company did not maintain funds sufficient to repay all of its players and instead used player funds to finance more than $400 million in dividend payments to Full Tilt Poker’s owners.

Under the terms of the settlement with PokerStars (the “PokerStars Settlement”), the company agreed, among other things, to forfeit $547 million to the United States (the “Forfeited Poker Funds”) and to assume Full Tilt Poker’s liability for the approximately $184 million owed by Full Tilt to foreign players.  The PokerStars Settlement also provided that PokerStars will acquire the Forfeited Full Tilt Assets from the Government and also precludes PokerStars from offering online poker for real money in the United States unless and until it becomes permissible to do so under relevant law.

The Full Tilt Poker Claims Process

Pursuant to the regulations governing remission, the Department of Justice may use forfeited funds to compensate victims of a charged criminal offense or a related offense that was the underlying basis for forfeiture.   

Using a portion of the Forfeited Poker Funds, the Department of Justice established a process (the “FTP Claims Process”) by which eligible U.S. victims of Full Tilt Poker were able to seek compensation for their losses.  GCG was selected as Claims Administrator by the United States to process claims submitted by the U.S. Full Tilt fraud victims.

GCG is a class action settlement and bankruptcy administration company that has provided comprehensive legal administration services for nearly 30 years.  GCG has worked on numerous complex administrations, including the U.S. Victims of State-Sponsored Terrorism Fund; the Gulf Coast Claims Facility; the Deepwater Horizon Economic and Property Damage Settlement; the Visa Check/MasterMoney Antitrust Litigation; the WorldCom Securities Litigation; and the IPO Securities Litigation.

The FTP Claims Process was announced in March 2013 and is winding down.  GCG received and reviewed 53,220 claims submitted by U.S. Full Tilt fraud victims during the claims period.  To date, 44,320 claims have been approved for payment and approximately $118,116,918.04 has been paid to U.S. Full Tilt fraud victims. 

The Absolute Poker Claims Process

As alleged in the operative forfeiture complaints and indictments in this case, the three online poker companies, including Absolute Poker, and their principals, conspired with one another, and others, such as payment processors who worked with multiple poker companies, to carry out the offense conduct that served as the basis for the forfeiture of the Forfeited Poker Funds. 

Additionally, the Department of Justice has concluded that players of Absolute Poker who were unable to recover their funds from Absolute Poker are similarly situated to the eligible victims of Full Tilt Poker, in that Absolute Poker, like Full Tilt Poker, did not maintain funds sufficient to repay all of its players.

Accordingly, remaining Forfeited Poker Funds will be used to fund a claims process for eligible Absolute Poker victims. 

That victim claims process will begin shortly.  Information about the claims administration will be posted on the dedicated website GCG has established in connection with the victim compensation process, www.AbsolutePokerClaims.com.  Information is also available from the toll-free hotline number at (855) 907-3254.

This aspect of the matter is being handled by the Office’s Money Laundering and Asset Forfeiture Unit. 

17-104
Updated April 10, 2017