Full Tilt Poker CEO Ray Bitar surrendered to U.S. authorities yesterday 15 months after his name appeared on the Black Friday indictments.
The FBI arrested Bitar upon his arrival in New York at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Bitar plead not guilty in a hearing in a Manhattan court later that afternoon. The 40 year old will be free on bail after posting a $2.5 million bond.
Six of the eleven men indicted on Black Friday have plead guilty to some amount of charges. Prior to yesterday, Bitar was one of five who have remained out of the United States to evade authorities. He is the biggest catch for U.S. authorities in the case so far.
Bitar’s attorneys said in court that their client decided to remain out of the U.S. to finalize a deal in order for Full Tilt players to be repaid. He decided to turn himself in now that Full Tilt is expected to finalize a deal with PokerStars that would lead to the repayment of players worldwide. Bitar, who is from southern California, had been in Ireland since Black Friday.
“I know that a lot of people are very angry at me,” Bitar said in an statement Monday. “I understand why. Full Tilt should never have gotten into a position where it could not repay player funds.”
“For the last 15 months, I have worked hard on possible solutions to get the players repaid,” he continued. “Returning today is part of that process. I believe we are near the end of a very long road, and I will continue to do whatever is required to get the players repaid, and I hope that it will happen soon.”
It will be interesting to note going forward how the U.S. attempts to prosecute Bitar who is facing 145 years in prison if convicted on all charges. The DOJ has been soft in their prosecution of the six Black Friday defendants who have plead guilty in order to receive light sentences. Bitar is the first who, by evidence of his not guilty plea, appears ready to battle with the DOJ.
Has the U.S. been saving its legal muscles to prosecute a bigger fish like Bitar to the fullest extent of the law or will he too ultimately cop-out on a plea deal in exchange for a slap-on-the-wrist sentence?