In a major crackdown on online gambling, the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office have charged the founders of the three biggest Internet poker sites with fraud, illegal gambling and laundering billions of dollars in illegal gambling proceeds.
The FBI said Friday it's indicting 11 defendants -- including the founders of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker -- with bank fraud, money laundering, and illegal gambling offenses. The feds also seized five Internet domain names used by the companies to host their poker games and issued restraining orders against 75 bank accounts in 14 countries used to process payments. The U.S. attorney's office is also seeking $3 billion in damages. The defendants could face maximum penalties of 30 years in prison $1 million fines.
Former U.S. Senator Alfonse D'Amato, Chairman of the Poker Players Alliance advocacy group, said he was "shocked" by the arrests and indictments. "Online poker is not a crime and should not be treated as such. We are currently gathering all of the information around today'announcement and will offer detailed analysis when the full facts become available."
Earlier, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement: "As charged, these defendants concocted an elaborate criminal fraud scheme, alternately tricking some U.S. banks and effectively bribing others to assure the continued flow of billions in illegal gambling profits Moreover, as we allege, in their zeal to circumvent the gambling laws, the defendants also engaged in massive money laundering and bank fraud. Foreign firms that choose to operate in the United States are not free to flout the laws they don't like simply because they can't bear to be parted from their profits."
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