They say gamblers should never play against a stronger opponent than themselves, but it appears that’s exactly what’s happened to Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, the World Series of Poker former champion and five-time bracelet winner. Ferguson lost a bundle to the Feds this week, forfeiting an undisclosed bank account to the government, along with any remaining interest from his Full Tilt sponsorship and an agreement to forfeit an additional $2.35 million within the next 30 days.
From a King to a Jack
The agreement brings to a close an almost two-year battle following the now infamous “Black Friday” of April 2011, in which the federal government moved in and shut down three major online poker sites, with Full Tilt being one of them, freezing all their assets.
The move was a huge blow to millions of online poker players, many of whom lost thousands in the freeze out, although some funds due players have since been returned. But for Ferguson, who had been a founding partner and original board member of the controlling entity behind Full Tilt, as well as its largest individual shareholder, the federal crackdown meant not only a loss of personal assets, but the potential for criminal charges as well.
No Wrongdoing Maintained
By accepting the deal, Ferguson admitted no wrongdoing, stating that he felt Full Tilt’s U.S. interactions were legal and reasserting that he had not taken $14 million he says was owed him by the online poker site, with the expectation that this move would go towards reimbursing players’ funds that had been previously lost on Full Tilt.
He additionally renounced all future claims against Full Tilt’s assets; the company has since been purchased by PokerStars, who also agreed to pay the government a $731 million settlement fee to put an end to its own legal woes with the Feds.
Both Ferguson’s surrendered funds and $150 million of the PokerStars allotment is supposed to go towards poker player fund reimbursements to U.S. players who were burned in the sting. Full Tilt was singled out at the time of the shutdown as a huge Ponzi scheme, with the site’s owners and operators being accused of taking player funds for their personal profits.
Wrapping Up the Case
This week’s actions put the wrap on a civil lawsuit that was filed by the Justice Department back in September 2011. The suit alleged that Ferguson, along with other Full Tilt owners including pro poker player and WSOP bracelet holder Howard Lederer, had defrauded the site’s online players out of nearly $444 million dollars.
Ferguson signed an eight-page settlement, along with his attorneys and federal prosecutors; U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood of New York approved the agreement.
You gotta know when to walk away, know when to run, as the famous song says.