DOJ Issues Warrants, Moves to Seize Assets of Bitar, Lederer and Ferguson

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The United States Department of Justice is hot on the trails of the owners of Full Tilt Poker. Earlier this week, the Department of Justice amended their Black Friday papers to include money laundering allegations aimed directly at Full Tilt Poker.

The Department of Justice called Full Tilt Poker a “ponzi scheme” and tied the theft of $300 Million in player deposits to the over $443 Million which the company paid its owners and board members.

Now the Department of crypto gambling and FBI have taken it one step further, and issued an arrest warrant in rem for the personal assets of Howard Lederer, Ray Bitar, and Chris Ferguson. A warrant in rem is a court approved warrant giving the government the power to go after personal property.

The warrant in rem allows the government to seize the following accounts:

-Wells Fargo Bank N.A. HH Lederer Consulting LLC, 7655741861

-Lloyds TSB International, Isle of Mann, Howard Lederer, GB56LOYD30166314010402

-NatWest, Raymond Bitar, GB81 RBOS 6095 4234087766

-Citibank N.A., Chris Ferguson, 40039049628

The warrant was issued Sept. 19 and signed by the Honorable Leonard B. Sand, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York.

According to the Department of Justice, Full Tilt mismanaged player funds and failed to segregate player deposits and operational expenses, while paying themselves exorbitantly over $443,860,530. $42 Million was paid to Howard Lederer, $41 Million to Ray Bitar, $11.7 to Rafe Furst, and Chris Ferguson was paid $82, with $25 Milliion paid out and the rest owed. The remaining balance was disbursed to the other unnamed 19 owners. According to Department of Justice records, between Lederer, Bitar and Ferguson, that’s a total of $108 Million in total pay.

It’s unknown how much of that $108 Million will be retrieved by the government and redistributed to Full Tilt players. However, this DOJ action could be seen as a positive sign for Full Tilt Poker players hoping to get their funds returned. The location of Ferguson, Lederer, and Bitar remains unknown, but with the swiftness of the Department of Justice’s actions this week, an official statement is expected soon.

Annie Duke’s day job is as a promoter, and she’s clearly good at her job. Epic Poker is yet again in the headlines; although, to be fair, not for the best of reasons. The Epic Poker League (EPL) has suspended two of its most prominent players: Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson. U.S. District Attorney Preet Bharara just called Full Tilt Poker’s financial operations a “global ponzi scheme” and amended the April 15, 2011 law suit to specifically name Chris Ferguson and Howard Lederer.

Thanks to this Bharara’s suit amendment, the EPL Standards and Conduct Committee head Stephen Martin handed down the suspension. “We’re not acting as judge and jury. We’re not barring them permanently from the league. All we did is take action to suspend them pending the outcome of the case,” Martin said. “For us it’s very difficult to understand the facts of what has occurred. We’re not in a position to view that, but with the types of allegations, especially since they involve directly the poker community, we believe this is going to be the best course of action.”

The committee did not wait for a complaint to be lodged, and instead proactively issued the suspension. “The League took it upon themselves. I was the one that informed the committee that the Department of Justice had taken this action against these two individuals. So then convened a meeting of the Standards and Conduct Committee to review it,” said Martin. “This is one of the situations where, if we don’t take action, we face the same criticism. You’re not taking action because it’s Annie’s brother or these are famous poker players. What we try to do is be neutral in these issues. We think any time there is action by the Federal Government that involves criminal issues that then translate into civil asset forfeiture and allegations of involvement then we’re going to address the situations.”