Ray Bitar’s Laundered Money Discovered by Guernsey Regulators

Ray Bitar £9.5m Full Tilt Poker Funds

Though Ray Bitar escaped prison with complaints of a near-fatal heart condition in 2013-2014, he appeared healthy in this 2016 wedding photo.

Working with the US Department of Justice, officials from the Isle of Guernsey this week discovered £9.5 million which was laundered by Ray Bitar, the former executive of Full Tilt Poker. The money has been hidden since the 2011 Black Friday investigations.

Ray Bitar was the CEO of Full Tilt Poker the day the Black Friday scandal erupted (April 15, 2011). Bitar was one of two FTP executives indicted by the office of Preet Bharara, who at the time was the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York. The indictment charged with Ray Bitar and his fellow Full Tilt Poker executives of fraud, money laundering, and violation of United States federal gambling laws.

Full Tilt Poker’s domains were seized on the same day, while player funds were frozen. Ultimately, the US Justice Department accused Ray Bitar and his executives ran a Ponzi scheme to pay $444 million to themselves and a few professional poker players who were part of the ownership group (Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson). While federal investigators determined who to separate player funds from operating funds in order to pay back the customers, six years passed. Player funds eventually were returned in several waves throughout 2016 and 2017 by Garden City Group, a law firm which specializes in distributing funds in such cases.

Ray Bitar’s 2013 Plea Bargain

Meanwhile, Ray Bitar pleaded guilty to lesser charges in 2013 and was sentenced to time served and forfeiture of his assets, estimated to be around $40 million in cash, homes, and other property. In 2013 and 2014, Ray Bitar claimed to have a heart condition, which was part of his appeal for clemency. By 2016, Ray Bitar’s heart condition appeared to be cured. He was reported to be married and starting a new family.

Through it all, US federal officials believed Ray Bitar had hidden assets in offshore bank accounts. In 2015, the U.S. State Department signed a deal with several nations to coordinate investigations and share funds hidden away by those involved in illegal online gambling. Guersney, a tiny island Crown Dependency in the UK’s Channel Isles, was one of the governments which participated.

Guernsey Finds £10.6mil

Guernsey, considered one of the best (if least known) gambling regulators in the world, delivered on its bargain. Its auditors seized bank records from 2012 to 2015 and found £10.6 million hidden in Guersney accounts. £9.5 million of that money is said to have been deposited by Ray Bitar. Megan Pullum, Guernsey’s Attorney General, praised the international cooperation which led to the findings.

Haralobos Voulgaris on FTP Investment

When the BBC published an article with the revelations that Ray Bitar had withheld money from the Feds, the online community of poker players erupted on social media. One Twitter follower tweeted to famed Greek-Canadian sports bettor, Haralobos Voulgaris, saying, “I remember u (sic) saying the ultimate reason you didn’t invest in Full Tilt was because they chose Ray Bitar to be CEO. Sometimes its that simple.”

Voulgaris, who also has $1.88 million in live poker winnings, but is best known as an oddsmaker, represents the rare insider who knew the personalities behind the scenes. Most online poker players in 2011 did not know who Ray Bitar was, despite Bitar subsequently gaining a reputation as the executive who did most of the underhanded white collar crime in the Full Tilt Poker case. Whether true or not, players like Howard Lederer and Chris “Jesus” Ferguson got most of the public derision, though insiders blame Ray Bitar for the lion’s share of the corruption.

Another Ray Bitar Sighting?

As much as they complained about further evidence of Ray Bitar’s wrongdoings, many online poker players complained they had to be reminded that the former Full Tilt Poker CEO existed. One supposes those are bad memories, waiting 6 years to receive ones poker payouts while the one who caused the trouble still uses ill-gotten gains to live the good life.

That being said, it is important for online gambling media to report such findings. If they do not, then the next time Ray Bitar wants to launch an online venture which might ensnare similar people, he might get away with it. People forget quickly, and people unlearn the hard lessons they’ve learned just as quickly.

Officials Pledge to Find Laundered Money

The US Justice Department and the AG of Guernsey pledged they would continue to look for evidence of Ray Bitar’s laundered money. With $444 million squirreled away at one point, they are not certain all of the money is accounted for.