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Full Tilt Poker boss arrested over $430m 'Ponzi scheme'

Hands himself in to authorities over missed payments

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The CEO of Full Tilt Poker has handed himself in to American authorities to face charges of running a Ponzi scheme against its users.

Raymond Bitar was arrested by the FBI at JFK Airport, in New York over allegations that his website, at one time the second biggest online poker company in the world, defrauded players by taking money that was reserved for payments and distributing it to directors of the company.

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

According to the FBI, the company told players that their money was held in ringfenced accounts, but Bitar and the other directors siphoned off $430m for their own use, leaving US users short of $344m in lost gaming funds.

Full Tilt only had around $145m in its bank accounts and was using funds from new players to pay off existing debts, the FBI says.

"I know that a lot of people are very angry at me. I understand why," Bitar said in a statement emailed to El Reg. "Full Tilt should never have gotten into a position where it could not repay player funds. For the last 15 months, I have worked hard on possible solutions to get the players repaid. Returning today is part of that process." ®

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