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Full Tilt Poker chief arrested in N.Y.

July 3, 2012 at 7:49 AM

NEW YORK, July 3 (UPI) -- Full Tilt Poker chief executive Raymond Bitar was arrested for allegedly running a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme, prosecutors in New York said.

Bitar was arrested Monday when his plane landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. The Wall Street Journal said the 40-year-old Los Angeles man has been living in Ireland while trying to negotiate a possible resolution to the charges that were filed against the Internet gaming company last year.

He pleaded not guilty Monday afternoon at a hearing in New York federal court.

Prosecutors say Full Tilt Poker, founded in 2004 by professional poker players, took in an estimated $1 billion from U.S. residents through April 15, 2011.

Bitar is the seventh of the 11 defendants charged in the original Internet poker indictment to have been arrested.

Bitar and the other defendants were charged last year with gambling, bank fraud and money laundering offenses. A superseding indictment unsealed Monday in federal court included the Ponzi allegations.

Prosecutors say Bitar allegedly promised players their funds would be protected in segregated accounts when the company actually used them to pay for Full Tilt operations and to pay Bitar and other owners more than $430 million.

As a result, the company was unable to pay the approximately $350 million it owed to players in the United States and other countries.

"With today's arrest and the new charges brought against him, Raymond Bitar will now be held criminally responsible for the alleged fraud he perpetrated on his U.S. customers that cost them hundreds of millions of dollars," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Monday in a statement.

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