If a recent report in the Financial Times is any indication, online poker room Full Tilt Poker could be in major legal trouble before 2010 is over. According to the article, a federal grand jury in Manhattan is investigating the company and some of the big names affiliated with the site. The Times names both Chris Ferguson and Howard Lederer as potential targets of the investigation. The two are believed to hold a “controlling interest” in Full Tilt Poker and, as US residents, they may be charged with breaking US anti-gambling laws. Though Lederer and Ferguson both reside in the US, Full Tilt is registered in Alderney, which is part of the UK’s Channel Islands.
In addition to investigating potential violations of gaming laws within the States, the inquiry is also looking into accusations of money laundering by the company. The Times elaborated on the nature of the investigation:
“FBI agents or prosecutors have spoken to at least two people involved in disputes with Full Tilt, paying special attention to the possibility of money-laundering violations, those familiar with the inquiry say. Money-laundering charges might be attractive to the government as they would compel co-operation from authorities even in countries where gambling is legal.”
The move is seen by many to be in anticipation of the June 1st enforcement deadline of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). The act had previously been delayed six months, but there appears to be no future delays for the legislation. This move is being seen by many within the online gambling industry as an attempt by the Justice Department to make an example out of one of the biggest sites currently serving US customers once the UIGEA goes into effect.
The article failed to name any of the individuals the FBI spoke to in connection to the case and Eric Jackson, a civil attorney who represents Full Tilt, declined commenting on the matter. “We are not going to comment about a speculative grand jury investigation that we are not aware of,” Jackson told the publication. Representatives from the US Attorney’s Office also declined to comment on the matter.
Bluff will continue to keep tabs on this story as it develops.
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