ONLINE POKER: Full Tilt chief surrenders to US authorities

Ray Bitar, the chief executive of Full Tilt Poker, has been arrested after voluntarily surrendering to US law enforcement and is being held in New York, according to multiple sources.

Bitar, who is from southern California, remained in Ireland, where Full Tilt Poker was headquartered, ever since he was indicted in the federal crackdown on the US online poker industry last year.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have also filed a superseding indictment against Bitar detailing fresh allegations regarding Bitar’s alleged efforts to conceal Full Tilt’s cash crunch following the April 2011 crackdown on online poker. Preet Bharara, the US attorney in Manhattan, has said that Full Tilt was operating like Ponzi scheme.

Bitar is the biggest catch yet for federal prosecutors in Manhattan, who last year indicted 11 individuals involved in the online poker industry for operating illegal gambling businesses and shut down the US facing web sites of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.

Federal prosecutors in the government’s online poker case, led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Arlo Devlin-Brown, have secured guilty pleas from seven of the 11 individuals. They have also pursued a $3 billion civil forfeiture case against the online poker companies.

An earlier effort by federal prosecutors in Manhattan to negotiate a resolution to their civil forfeiture claims against Full Tilt partly through a sale of its assets to a French company failed amid issues like paying back players. PokerStars, the world’s biggest online poker company, which has also been the subject of forfeiture claims by the government, has more recently been engaging in similar negotiations with federal prosecutors.

• Additional reporting,

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