Eleven people involved with PokerStars, Full Tilt, and UB/AP have been accused of being part of an online gambling conspiracy in the United States. The charges include bank fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. The eleven people charged were either involved with the online poker site or with the payment processors.
Bradley Franzen chose to plea not guilty to a US magistrate in New York. Franzen, a payment processor, has been accused of making fake websites and companies in order to hide transactions with poker sites. He is also accused of tricking banks about these transactions.
Frazen turned himself in to the FBI just after the weekend. A $200,000 bond secured by his parents enabled his release. If he is convicted of conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, he could be sentenced to as much as thirty years in prison.
Chad Elie, also a payment processor, has also pleaded guilty. Arrested in Vegas last Friday, he has been charged for money laundering, bank fraud, and wire fraud. Like Franzen, he has been accused of tricking banks about transactions to poker sites.
Elie was scheduled to get married on Saturday April 16th, so he was released to attend his wedding. He married his fiancée Destiny Davis in Las Vegas, and then gave himself up again on Tuesday. A personal $250k bond secured his recent release. Until his trial, he is restricted from traveling outside of New York, Nevada, or Washington DC.
US residents should avoid playing online poker until further notice. If you do not live in the US, feel free to continue play on PokerStars as we trust them the most. William Hill Poker, bet365 poker, Partypoker, and Ladbrokes Poker are decent alternatives for non-Americans.
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Poker TV Shows Hang In the Balance
In the wake of Black Friday, it’s easy to focus solely on the plight of the online poker room servicing US players, but there are a great number of ancillary products that will be just as acutely affected.
One of these fields is poker television. Many of the most popular poker shows on U.S. TV are directly or indirectly funded by the sites indicted by the Department of Justice last week. Broadcast networks are understandably unhappy about running PokerStars or Full Tilt advertisements and may go so far as to pull shows that feature their branding.
ESPN has been far and away the strongest supporters of poker TV in the US, but there’s legitimate concern among many viewers that a number of programs could be for the chop. An episode of PokerStars’ North American Poker Tour was slated to run early this week, but seems to have disappeared from the schedules.
ESPN released a statement to the effect that “for the immediate future, we are efforting to remove related advertising and programming pending further review.” Although the statement names no specific shows, it seems likely that the NAPT will be among the first to go.
The network has also moved quickly to allay fears that its celebrated WSOP broadcasts will be cancelled. ESPN’s Andrew Feldman took to twitter to reassure fans that “ESPN will still be covering the WSOP.” Even in the face of Black Friday, the WSOP is expected to be popular with players from around the world. Attendance may be down due to the loss of some online satellites, but the World Series still has a cache that extends beyond the internet.
The National Heads-Up Poker Championship is another major event which eschews internet sponsorship. Unless NBC feel that the poker landscape is so fraught that they ought not to broadcast any cards at all, the Heads-Up Championship is expected to air as planned.
Among the shows in jeopardy are PokerStars’ Million Dollar Challenge and The Big Game. Both feature PokerStars pros heavily and are steeped in their branding. FOX, who broadcast both shows, has announced that they are to be pulled, with the network, “searching for alternative content.”
Also on FOX, The World Poker Tour is due to begin shortly. This has a considerably better chance of survival, as its lone online sponsor is PartyPoker. Party withdrew from the US following the passage of the UIGEA in 2006 and is not in any way implicated in recent investigation by the FBI.
High Stakes Poker and Poker After Dark have been duelling single-table shows for a number of years, but neither can be sure of their continued existence. For most of its lifetime, HSP has functioned without an online poker sponsor, but has recently received substantial backing from PokerStars.
Likewise, PAD is funded to a large extend by Full Tilt. These shows could easily be run with the branding removed, but they may need to find new sponsors if the production companies wish to continue creating them.
Finally, some media outlets have been reporting that ESPN’s online poker news show, the Inside Deal has been pulled. However, Andrew Feldman tweeted yesterday: “Inside Deal with @Jon_Anik, @BernardLeePoker and myself this Friday. You won’t want to miss this one.” They will no doubt be discussing the lack of US poker.