Brent Beckley, co-founder of Absolute Poker, a Costa Rica-based online gambling website, pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges pertaining to conspiracy to commit money laundering and bank fraud and conspiracy to violate U.S. Internet gambling laws, according to Bloomberg news agency.
Beckley, 31, faces 12-18 months in prison, Bloomberg reported. The U.S. citizen will be sentenced on April 19.
“I knew that it was illegal to accept credit cards from players to gamble on the Internet,” Beckley said to the judge before his plea. “I knew that it was illegal to deceive the banks in this way.”
On May 6, the Costa Rican Judicial Investigation Police raided the Costa Rica offices of Absolute Poker. The raids, as directed by the Prosecutor’s Office, followed an April 15 indictment issued by U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara.
On the day of the indictment, deemed “Black Friday” by online gambling operators, the U.S. Attorneys Office announced the indictment of 11 defendants, four with assumed ties to Costa Rica, including the founders of Absolute Poker, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, the three largest online poker companies in the U.S.
Beckley and other defendants – including those with ties to Costa Rica, Scott Tom, Bradley Franzen and Ira Rubin – “helped conceal money received from U.S. gamblers by disguising it as payments to hundreds of nonexistent online merchants purporting to sell items such as jewelry and golf balls,” the Bloomberg article stated.
Franzen pleaded guilty to charges in May.
The online poker business was a million-dollar industry in the late 1990s and first half of the 2000s. In 2006, the U.S. implemented the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which made it a federal crime for gambling businesses to “knowingly accept” most forms of payment “in connection with the participation of another person in unlawful Internet gambling.” That change in the law led to Bharara bringing charges against the poker companies.