PokerStars Founder Pleads Guilty to Illegal Online Gambling Operation

  • The admission comes nine years after an initial indictment by New York federal prosecutors
  • Judge Kaplan will determine Isai Scheinberg's punishment, no sentencing date set yet
  • Charges were pressed against three operators for illegal gambling, money laundering, bank fraud
  • The PokerStars founder now faces up to five years' imprisonment for his actions
Guilty court decision with judge's gavel and wooden cubes that read GUILTY
PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg pleaded guilty to operating an illegal online gambling business in a New York federal court. [Image:]

A long-running case

Isai Scheinberg, the founder of the massively popular PokerStars platform, has pleaded guilty to the operation of an illegal online gambling business. This comes nine years after Scheinberg and other online poker executives were indicted by New York federal prosecutors. 

long-running saga dating back to the federal government’s crackdown on online poker sites

The admission brings to an end the long-running saga dating back to the federal government’s crackdown on online poker sites on what was dubbed ‘Black Friday’. Judge Lewis Kaplan will determine the punishment, with no sentencing date determined as of yet.

New York US attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said, “As Isai Scheinberg’s guilty plea today shows, the passage of time will not undermine this Office’s commitment to holding accountable individuals who violate U.S. law.”

The charges pressed

In March 2011, federal prosecutors in New York pressed charges against Scheinberg and ten other people from three separate online gambling firms. The charges related to illegal gambling, money laundering, and bank fraud. The gambling firms in question were PokerStars, Absolute Poker, and Full Tilt Poker.

illegal gambling, money laundering, and bank fraud

Every single one of the other defendants, except for Scheinberg, had already pleaded guilty to their charges and received their sentences. In 2012, PokerStars also agreed to pay a settlement worth $731m to the US Justice Department. As part of the deal, there was no admittance of wrongdoing on behalf of the online poker platform. 

Arrest and extradition

Scheinberg now faces up to five years’ imprisonment. The 73-year-old was arrested in June 2019 in Switzerland, after which he battled his extradition to the United States for some time. In January 2020, he decided to stop challenging the order and was brought to the U.S.

Initially, Scheinberg pleaded not guilty and met bail of $1m. However, he had to restrict his movements and surrender his passports. He is a citizen of both Canada and Israel.

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