Las Vegas man pleads not guilty in NYC poker case

AP News
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Posted: Apr 19, 2011 3:00 PM
Las Vegas man pleads not guilty in NYC poker case

The lawyer for a Las Vegas man arrested in a prosecution aimed at shutting down the three largest Internet poker companies operating in the United States contested bank fraud conspiracy charges Tuesday by saying his client never lied to a bank.

Attorney William Cowden made the comment outside court after his client, Chad Elie, pleaded not guilty and was released on $250,000 bail. He said Elie intends to "aggressively defend" charges that he and 10 others conspired to persuade banks to process billions of dollars in illegal Internet revenues. Elie had appeared in federal court in Las Vegas last week and was making his first appearance in the Manhattan court where the case will be prosecuted.

The 31-year-old Elie and others are accused of fooling banks into processing Internet poker transactions. Authorities said Elie persuaded a Utah bank operator to process transactions in return for a $10 million investment in the bank.

A law enacted in the U.S. in 2006 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. Cowden said his client "never lied to a bank."

The prosecution is aimed at shutting down the U.S. operations of three companies based overseas: PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker. The indictment seeks $3 billion in money laundering penalties and forfeiture from the defendants.

At one point during Elie's 10-minute court appearance, Cowden handed a prosecutor a small box containing what he said was a 500 gigabyte hard drive.

Magistrate Judge Frank Maas said he'd never before seen a defense lawyer hand over a piece of evidence at such an early stage of court proceedings.

Outside court, Cowden said he didn't want to waste any time getting the case to trial. He also said his client would not speak about the case.

The bail package calls for Elie to post $50,000 in cash by next week as collateral. Among three financially responsible people who must sign his bond was his wife, Destiny Davis. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Sunday that Davis, a Miss January 2005 Playboy Playmate, was married Saturday to Elie at Little Church of the West in Las Vegas. Davis sat in the last row of spectator seating during the arraignment.

So far, three of the 11 people charged in the case have been arrested. All are free on bail after pleading not guilty.