Last night we learned that Full Tilt Poker CEO Ray Bitar was freed on bail, after posting a $2.5 million bond secured by cash and property. Bitar’s surrender, and the subsequent bail hearings, have led to rampant speculation on precisely why Bitar surrendered at this point in time, with some people feeling he will be facing hard-time due to the numerous charges he’s been indicted for (most recently the superseding indictment which wasn’t unsealed until he was in custody), while others feel Bitar has already cut a deal with prosecutors and surrendered knowing he will plea down to just a minor offense(s).
In this article I’ll take a look a t both sides of the coin, and try to make some sense of the recent behavior of the beleaguered CEO.
The case for Hard Time
If Ray Bitar voluntarily surrendered with no assurances that he would only have to do a minimal amount of time behind bars then his decision to turn himself in seems almost nonsensical. BUT, with the superseding indictment, and now the government’s fight to deny Bitar bail, it does seem that he may in fact be flying blind and not know what type of time he will be doing.
Most people felt that Bitar would be treated with kid gloves if he had already cut a deal, but considering he spent over a week in jail, he may very well have simply decided to turn himself in and see what kind of deal he could get. The US Attorney for the Southern District of New York did say that Bitar was in contact with US authorities but was repeatedly told that no progress could be made until he turned himself in.
The case for a Plea Bargain
It’s hard to imagine that Bitar returned to the US without having had several conversations with US Attorney’s Office regarding possible plea bargain deals. This seems even more likely when you consider that every other person indicted on Black Friday who has gone to court has plea bargained down to very minor offenses.
The only difference in Bitar’s case, as opposed to the other indicted individuals, is who can he rollover on, and how can he aide the government’s investigation? There is the matter of the other Full Tilt Poker owners, and considering many people feel this was nothing more than a cash-grab by the US DOJ, Bitar could very well supply the evidence needed for the government to go after the assets of other Full Tilt poker owners. With documents showing that over $400 million was paid to Full Tilt poker shareholders over the years there is still plenty of money left for the government to go after.
So why would Bitar roll over on the other Full Tilt owners? One reason could very well be the way Bitar has been portrayed since Black Friday. While Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, and Rafe Furst (the three men also named in the indictments along with Bitar’s right-hand man at Full Tilt Nelson Burtnick) have been fairly silent on the matter, their friends, acting as surrogates and proxies, have had no problem fingering Bitar as incompetent and running the show. Perhaps Bitar feels he has been thrown under the bus and now wants to return the favor.
We’ll likely find out in the very near future which of the above is true, and when we do we’ll be right there to explain all of the details.