How the mighty have fallen: Ray Bitar, the 40-year-old former CEO of Full Tilt poker – once at the top of the financial food chain that was online poker until the infamous Black Friday events toppled the biggest players – is now possibly near death, and has agreed to a plea deal with the Feds on his Black Friday indictments. His health issues are so dire, in fact, that he may not even be able to appear in court to enter his guilty pleas to Manhattan-based U.S District Judge Loretta Preska, and it will be up to Preska to decide if prison will be the last place he sees before he kicks it, or if he’ll be allowed to live out what may be his last 6-12 months of life in a more sedate environment.
Awaiting Heart Transplant
In what some, no doubt, would call poetic justice for a man who screwed millions out of millions of dollars in what the Feds basically determined was a Ponzi scheme, Bitar was diagnosed this past November as being in dire need of a heart transplant, and now awaits one. Certainly the stress of the past two years cannot have helped any apparently underlying cardiac issues for the pudgy prodigal son; and this plea deal, while wrapping things up, may not help much.
Forfeiture of Cash and Property
Under the plea deal terms, Bitar will be forfeiting some $40 million in cash and property as he pleads guilty to at least two of the felony charges levied against him by the Department of Justice back in April 2011. As his docs have only given him a 50 percent shot at being alive this time next year, that might look like the least of his worries right now, of course. In fact, he hasn’t even received a definite okay from his doctors for heart transplant suitability, let alone lined up a, um, donor.
Other Players Have Already Pled
Bitar’s Full Tilt partners – Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson and Rafe Furst – have all already settled civil charges on their own. PokerStars bought out Full Tilt as part of their DoJ deal, shelling out $731 million for the privilege. Bitar originally turned himself in to U.S. authorities last July to face nine felony charges, which included conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering, all as they connected to his U.S. online poker site.
Now he faces an even more grueling sentence where his health is concerned. Of course, many would say he’s been heartless all along.