Black Friday fugitive Scott Tom, the founder of Absolute Poker (AP), pleaded not guilty in Manhattan Federal Court on Thursday to charges of violating internet gambling laws and conspiracy.
The 37-year-old had been at large since he was indicted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2011, but turned himself in yesterday, arriving back in New York from his home in Barbados, according to Reuters.
Six years ago, the DOJ shut down the three largest online poker sites serving the US market: Full Tilt, PokerStars, and Absolute Poker’s CEREUS network, on the grounds that they were tricking banks into processing billions of online transactions in violation of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA).
Tom was indicted along with 11 others, including his step-brother Brent Beckley, who received 14 months in prison in 2012. It’s not known why Tom, who was the last of the 11 to face the music besides PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg, has chosen to turn himself in now, after so much time on the lam.
He was released on a $500,000 bond. His lawyer, James Henderson, said in court he expected a plea deal soon.
Players Still Owed Millions
AP collapsed shortly after Black Friday, owing players millions. Because it had failed to segregate player funds from its operating costs, it couldn’t pay up. AP’s assets were liquidated by the DOJ to cover debts to suppliers, but those players have never been paid, and it’s unlikely they ever will be. By some estimates they are owed as much as $60 million.
Many former customers would no doubt like to see Tom questioned over the AP cheating scandal. In 2007, a player on the TwoPlusTwo forums suspected that someone using an AP account called “Potripper” was somehow able to see his cards.
The player emailed AP support to request his hand history for a tournament he had lost heads up to Potripper in improbable circumstances. Instead, he received, presumably from a whistleblower within AP, a document that included the hand histories of everyone involved in the tournament, as well their IPs, and the IPs of observers.
The document confirmed beyond a doubt the existence of a super-user account, which had been able to see all the cards and which was advising Potripper.
How It Went Down
TwoPlusTwo members suspected an observer, named “#363,” of being the super-user, and traced the IP to an AP server hosted by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission. That oversight organization in turn cross-referenced to a cable modem in Costa Rica, owned by Tom.
The Potripper account was owned by A.J. Green, a former director of operations at AP, as well as reportedly Tom’s best friend.
In the wake of the scandal, the official line from AP was that the accounts were hacked by a disgruntled employee.
Tom is not standing trial for the AP cheating scandal, of course, and any evidence of his involvement is merely circumstantial. But a decade on, those wronged by his poker site are still demanding answers.