The global online poker giant PokerStars founder, Isai Scheinberg has pled guilty to illegal gambling in a New York court, ending the decade long Black Friday saga. He was one of the 11 defendants charged by the US Department of Justice on 15 April 2011.
On Wednesday, Geoffrey Berman, US Attorney for the Southern District of NY declared Scheinberg had entered a plea of guilty to a single count of operating illegal business. He now faces a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison.
“Ten years ago, this Office charged 11 defendants who operated, or provided fraudulent payment processing services to, three of the largest online poker companies then operating in the United States – PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker – with operating illegal gambling businesses and other crimes,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman. “As Isai Scheinberg’s guilty plea today shows, the passage of time will not undermine this Office’s commitment to holding accountable individuals who violate U.S. law.”
In January, a news broke out that the 73-year old had surrendered to the US authorities after being arrested in Switzerland last June. Scheinberg initially chose to fight extradition before agreeing to come to New York. PokerStars was one of the companies targeted on Black Friday and the only one to survive the financial fallout. While Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Bet crushed after being exposed of Ponzi schemes. On the other hand, Stars forfeited $547 million to the US, also refunded its customer’s account balances with approximately $184 million and provided funds that helped bail out Full Tilt and AP customers.
Three years ago, AP co-founder, Scott Tom reached his own deal which made Scheinberg the last of the 11 individuals indicted on Black Friday who was yet to resolve his charge. However, it can be expected that he will serve much less than 5-year imprisonment, despite the US attorney’s decision. The reality is most of the 11 defendants in the case served fairly short sentences in they served any at all.
Scheinberg founded PokerStars in 2001 and continued to operate in the legal grey area that existed in the United States after 2006. He stepped away from running the company as part of the deal and ultimately sold it for $4.9 billion to David Baazov and Amaya Gaming Group in 2014.
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