On the two-year anniversary of Black Friday, former Full Tilt CEO Ray Bitar pled guilty to conspiracy charges and agreed to forfeit his assets, but was not given any time in jail due to his health problems.
Bitar is in desperate need of a heart transplant and may not be long for this world without one. His plea deal was announced by prosecutors last week and accepted Monday by U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Preska in New York, the Wall Street Journal reported. The ailing Bitar will part with various properties and some $40 million in assets.
The judge pointed out that Bitar, who appeared on videotape from a courtroom in Los Angeles because doctors advised against traveling in his condition, is eligible for upwards of six years in prison. But she showed mercy on him, sentencing the 47-yeard-old to time served and forfeiture of his assets.
The time served was seven days that Bitar spent in the slammer last summer upon his arrival from Ireland as he surrendered to authorities. Federal agents didn’t wait for Bitar to step off the plane, going on board to serve him with an indictment on a slew of criminal charges related to his mismanagement of Full Tilt Poker.
After reviewing medical documents submitted by Bitar’s physicians, Judge Preska ruled that the U.S. Bureau of Prisons would not be able to provide the care Bitar needed and a prison sentence would hinder his chances of receiving a heart transplant.
“I don’t think anyone would trade positions with him no matter what,” Preska said.
Bitar was apologetic during his plea hearing, confessing that he did conspire to process several hundred million dollars of online poker revenue through various U.S. banks by setting up phony Internet companies that were not gambling-related. He also promised players following Black Friday that their funds were safe and held in segregated accounts knowing full well that that wasn’t the case.
“I regret my actions. I know they were wrong and illegal,” Bitar admitted. “I am very sorry.”
When Bitar’s condition was made public last week — he may not live longer than six to 12 months without a heart transplant — posters on various online poker forums were quite distasteful in their comments. Many felt that “karma” came into play and that Bitar was getting exactly what he deserved.
Although he did commit an egregious offense and jeopardized the finances of millions of players, to express joy over his unfortunate medical condition is showing profound ugliness and a severe lack of humanity.