Online poker middleman pleads guilty in NYC

AP News

2/28/2012 4:38:58 PM - AP News

A Canadian citizen pleaded guilty to U.S. conspiracy charges Tuesday in connection with an investigation of Internet poker gambling that shut down the three largest online poker companies in the United States.

Ryan Lang, 37, entered the plea in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, saying he served as a middleman between poker companies and brokers who tricked banks into processing money for the gambling businesses.

From 2007 to mid-2010, Lang said, he helped poker companies circumvent U.S. laws meant to prevent banks from processing online gambling proceeds. He said he operated from Canada as he helped financial brokers who used fake companies and made false statements to the banks to trick them into processing payments.

"I wish to publically apologize to anyone I've harmed by my conduct," Lang said.

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit tax fraud and violation of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, accepting funds in connection with Internet gambling and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The charges carry a potential penalty of up to 30 years in prison. Sentencing was set for Sept. 24.

The U.S. in October 2006 enacted the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which makes it a crime for gambling businesses to knowingly accept most forms of payment in connection with the participation of another person in unlawful Internet gambling.

The charges stem from a prosecution that shut down the U.S. operations of Absolute Poker, Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars last spring. At the time, a federal judge in Manhattan issued an order restraining about 76 bank accounts in 14 countries that were believed to contain proceeds from Internet gambling.

The government also seized five Internet domain names used by the poker companies to operate their online businesses in the United States.

Several defendants already have pleaded guilty in the case while several others are awaiting trial.