Campos’ Guilty Plea Questioned By Judge


Posted by on Friday, March 30th, 2012

The recent plea deal between federal prosecutors and Black Friday payment processor John Campos that saw the former bank vice chairman admit guilt to only a lone misdemeanor count, was questioned by the judge presiding over the case as, perhaps, being too lenient.

In echoing sentiments that reverberated throughout the poker community as to how such serious conspiracy and money laundering charges could result in just one misdemeanor charge that, esentially, is a mere slap on the wrist, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan ordered prosecutors to explain their reasoning behind the plea agreement. Judges have discretionary power to reject plea deals between prosecutors and defendants. If he should find U.S. attorneys’ logic in accepting such a mild deal for Campos to be lacking, Kaplan could force the parties back to the bargaining table.

Campos and Chad Elie, who also got off easy in admitting guilt to just one felony conspiracy charge, both worked out deals with prosecutors just a couple of days ago that avoided an April 9 trial date. Elie agreed to forfeit over $25 million in funds that were linked to payment processing transactions with the online poker sites of Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars, as well as pay a fine of half a million dollars. His sentencing is set for Oct 3, 2012, and is expected to draw from six months to one year incarceration. It is believed that Judge Kaplan will permit Elie’s plea arrangement to stand.

“You’re basically walking away from the prosecution?” Kaplan asked U.S. attorneys in regards to Campos’ trial, the Associated Press reported. The judge was curious how prosecutors could agree to such a deal when the severity of the charges and the fact that Campos admitted to processing about $200 million in online poker funds through his role at SunFirst Bank in Utah cries out for a felony conviction. Campos’ sentencing hearing is slated for June 27, at which time Kaplan is expected to address the guilty plea and listen to arguments and reasoning set forth by prosecutors.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Arlo Devlin-Brown admitted that the prospect of going to trial on the Campos case did entail several risks, including the uncertainty of the legality of processing transactions for offshore companies, as well as Campos’ involvement in the scheme being restricted to the “tail end of the conspiracy.”

Another U.S. Attorney working on the case, Andrew Goldstein, insisted that the sentencing range of six months in jail for Campos’ misdemeanor deal is similar to the sentencing expected for a felony count. Prosecutors also feel that Campos’ agreeing to never again seek work in the banking sector is also substantial punishment for his offenses.

A total of 11 individuals were charged in the Black Friday online poker allegations, in addition to PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and the CEREUS Network poker rooms of UltimateBet and Absolute Poker. While more than half of the persons charged have admitted guilt and made plea bargains with prosecutors, founding members of both PokerStars and Full Tilt, Isai Scheinberg and Ray Bitar, respectively, still await their day in court, or, their day at the bargaining table with U.S. attorneys.


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