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NEWS 11 April 2017

US Department of Justice establish repayment plan for victims of Absolute Poker’s “Black Friday” fraud

By Nicole Abbott
The Department of Justice have recently announced that Absolute Poker is to compensate players through a claims process similar to that of Full Tilt, which is part of an ongoing civil complaint settlement following the events of online poker’s “Black Friday” in 2011.

In April 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice established a 52-page indictment against top executives of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker, as well as a civil complaint against those companies. Those named in the indictment faced years in prison while the civil complaint demanded $3bn in assets from the sites. The PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker sites were immediately shut down in the US, followed swiftly by Absolute Poker and its sister site, UltimateBet.

The Department of Justice concluded that players who were unable to recover their funds from these three sites are entitled claim the funds they lost form the betting sites. Absolute Poker, like Full Tilt Poker, did not maintain sufficient funds to repay all of its players. Absolute Poker agreed to forfeit all its assets to the United States in 2013 in order to resolve the matter.

The Full Tilt repayment process began in March 2013, and is soon to be completed after the Garden City Group reviewed 53,220 claims from Full Tilt victims during the claims period. The group approved 44,320 claims for payment and has paid out approximately $118,116,918.

In February 2017, the founder of Absolute Poker, Scott Tom, returned to the US to face charges of violating a federal internet gambling law and engaged in a money-laundering conspiracy. Tom pleaded not guilty to charges from Manhattan federal court and was released on a $500,000 bond following a court hearing. James Henderson, his lawyer, said in court he expected a plea deal soon: "There's going to be a resolution in this case quickly."

Joon H. Kim, currently the U.S. Acting Attorney for the SDNY, recently announced that the government will retain the Garden City Group to oversee this process of repayment following the 2011 filing and settlement against Absolute Poker and others in the United States.

The claims process that the government previously established to repay Full Tilt’s victims from the company’s forfeited funds will also be used for Absolute Poker’s payback plan.

As of yesterday, the Garden City Group had emailed notices to potentially eligible victims of Absolute Poker’s fraud with instructions for filling out the petitions.

The dedicated website for these claims is www.AbsolutePokerClaims.com. The Absolute Poker Claims Administration website, as authorised by the Department of Justice’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section and the United States Attorney for the District of New York, describes the “petition for remission” process and references the case: United States v. PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker, et al., 11 Civ. 2564 (LBS).

The site states that this claims process will operate for players who were “unable to withdraw funds that they had transferred to Absolute Poker”.

Repayments will calculated from the player’s last known account balance with Absolute Poker. Those who are “Affiliates” will receive funds according to an alternative methodology.

The site states: “If the forfeited funds available for distribution equal or exceed the aggregate Account Balances for all eligible Petitioners, each eligible Petitioner with an approved claim will receive the entirety of his or her Account Balance or approved loss amount. If the aggregate Account Balances for all eligible Petitioners exceed the funds available for distribution, payments shall be made to eligible Petitioners on a pro rata basis.”

The deadline for the petitions for remission is 9 June 2017. According to various discussions on Twitter, players who had UltimateBet accounts are supposedly also included in the Garden City Group's data.
RELATED TAGS: Online | Legal & Regulatory | Financial | Poker
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