In September, the DOJ filed a civil suit accusing professional poker players and owners of the online poker website Full Tilt Poker of cheating its members out of more than $440 million.
The suit claims that Full Tilt Poker's board of directors was involved in a scheme between April 2007 and April 2011 in which the website's poker players believed their funds were safe and available for withdrawal at any time. In reality, the funds weren't available and purportedly were used to pay board members and other Full Tilt owners. The website continued to credit players' accounts without disclosing its inability to fund the credits.
In a press release, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said that "Full Tilt was not a legitimate poker company, but a global Ponzi scheme."
But the Full Tilt team isn't going down without a fight. Lawyers representing the gaming website vehemently contest Bharara's allegation and say that Full Tilt was merely a mismanaged business operation.
"A Ponzi scheme requires an investment vehicle in order to receive a certain rate of high return," said Jeff Ifrah, an attorney for Full Tilt's CEO Raymond Bitar. "None of those things happened here."
The Ponzi scheme label is troubling to Full Tilt because it could mean that it will lose its license to operate outside the U.S.