A former chair of the DNC for Erie County in New York State pleaded guilty in a Manhattan federal court to conspiracy to cause a foreign donation in a state election on Tuesday.

David Baazov

Steven Pigeon had a reputation as a mover and shaker in New York State politics before his arrest on corruption charges in 2016. In September he pleaded guilty to bribing a judge. (Image: Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Steven Pigeon faces up to 16 months in prison for arranging to disguise the source of a $25,000 contribution to the reelection campaign of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in February 2014.

That source was the now-ex CEO and chairman of PokerStars-parent Amaya Gaming, David Baazov. Amaya has since changed its name to The Stars Group, in part to distance itself from the Baazov era.

It is against federal law for foreign nationals to make donations to US political campaigns.

The donation came at a time when Amaya was lobbying state legislatures to introduce legislation to legalize and regulate online poker and gaming. The company was at the time in negotiations to buy PokerStars, a $4.9 billion deal it eventually pulled off the following June.

Carrier Pigeon

The Cuomo campaign initially turned down the donation because Baazov was a Canadian national and Amaya a Canadian company, so Pigeon arranged for the payment to go a third party who was an American citizen. This allowed Pigeon and Baazov to gain access to a political fundraising party in Manhattan, according to court documents.

The Buffalo News found that the only $25,000 donation the Cuomo campaign that corresponded to date in question was made by Florida attorney Marlon Goldstein, who had recently been hired as a general counsel and executive vice president of Amaya.

Pigeon built a reputation as a political fixer in New York State politics but on 30 June 2016, he was indicted by federal prosecutors on bribery and extortion charges and last month pleaded guilty to bribing a State Supreme Court judge.

Rise and Fall

Baazov’s fall from grace has been equally dramatic. After engineering the PokerStars deal, he was the golden boy of the online gaming industry, until he was charged by the Quebec financial regulator with securities fraud.

Baazov was alleged to be the tip of an insider-trading “pyramid” who it was alleged took kickbacks for passing privileged information to a “sophisticated network” comprising his brother, their business acquaintances, and other friends and family members.

He denied these allegations and the case against him was thrown out in June due to the repeated incompetence of the prosecution, which included accidentally sharing more than 300,000 documents with the defense that were supposed to remain confidential and then asking for them back.