Isai Scheinberg, founder of PokerStars, the top online poker room in the world, was sentenced to time served and a $30,000 fine by Judge Lewis A. Kaplan in the Southern District of New York on Wednesday bringing the final chapter of the Black Friday saga to a close.
“I am pleased that Judge Kaplan has determined today not to impose a prison sentence in my case,” Scheinberg said in a statement to pokerfuse.
Under the United States Sentencing Guidelines, Scheinberg faced between 12 and 18 months in prison, but the Government recommended a below-Guidelines sentence for the following reasons:
- Scheinberg is believed to have a low likelihood of becoming a repeat offender.
- At the time of the indictment it was discovered that PokerStars had properly segregated players funds.
- Prosecutors wanted to avoid unwarranted sentencing disparities in the case.
- Following Black Friday, PokerStars under the direction of Scheinberg, assumed approximately $304 million of Full Tilt Poker’s liabilities to players, an act which Acting United States Attorney Audrey Strauss referred to as a good deed.
“PokerStars played an important role in creating today’s global regulated online poker industry by running an honest and transparent business that always treated its players fairly,” Scheinberg continued. “I am particularly proud that in 2011, when PokerStars exited the United States, all of its American players were made whole immediately. Indeed, PokerStars reimbursed millions of players who were owed funds from other online companies that could not or did not repay those players.”
Scheinberg was one of 11 people indicted on Black Friday in 2011 and faced multiple charges including conspiracy to defraud the United States, bank and wire fraud, and money laundering.
Scheinberg was the last of the group to face prosecution, having avoided arrest for nearly a decade, but following unsuccessful attempts at reaching a settlement with US authorities, he was arrested in Switzerland in 2019.
He originally contested extradition to the US, but later dropped his appeal and surrendered to US federal agents in January 2020.
In March, Scheinberg pleaded guilty to one count of operating an unlawful internet gambling business before Magistrate Judge Sarah L. Cave. The plea was accepted by the Court in May.
Former Head of Corporate Communications and Global Poker Marketing for PokerStars, Eric Hollreiser, issued the following statement to pokerfuse:
Isai made an enormous impact on the poker world through his relentless focus on doing the right thing for players, the right thing for PokerStars employees and the right thing for his broader community. He built a hugely successful company based upon strong personal values and created an online platform that introduced millions of people to the game. I’m proud to have worked with him and to have contributed to PokerStars’ success. I’m really pleased that Isai can now return to his family life and charitable pursuits.
Other Black Friday Defendants
Indictments unsealed on April 15, 2011 resulted in the top three online poker rooms, PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker, being closed off to players in the US, a move that eventually caused all but PokerStars to close permanently.
In all, 11 people were indicted on that day, and now with the sentencing of Scheinberg, all defendants have been brought to justice.
Payment processor Ira Rubin received the longest prison term, 3 years. Chad Elie was sentenced to five months. Most of the others had either no incarceration or their stint behind bars was limited to time served.
The list below identifies each of the Black Friday defendants along with their respective companies/roles.
Black Friday Defendants
|Isai Scheinberg||PokerStars CEO|
|Ray Bitar||Full Tilt Poker CEO|
|Scott Tom||Absolute Poker CEO|
|Nelson Burtnick||Full Tilt Poker Executive|
|Brent Beckley||Absolute Poker Executive|
|John Campos||Payment Processor|
|Chad Elie||Payment Processor|
|Bradley Franzen||Payment Processor|
|Ryan Lang||Payment Processor|
|Ira Rubin||Payment Processor|
In addition, Mark Scheinberg, son of Isai Scheinberg and co-founder of PokerStars, agreed to forfeit $50 million to the US government in 2013 that he received as distributions from the operation of the PokerStars and its subsidiaries.
The Scheinbergs sold PokerStars to Amaya Gaming Group in 2014 for $4.9 billion.