September Sentencing Hearing for AP President Scott Tom in Black Friday Case
A September sentencing hearing has now been set for former Absolute Poker president and co-founder Scott Tom, who has pled guilty to a single misdemeanor count in connection with US-facing operations of that online site during the post-UIGEA era.
Tom and his attorney, James Henderson, reached a deal with U.S. Southern District of New York prosecutors in which Tom pled guilty to a single misdemeanor count of accessory after the fact in connection with the transmission of gambling information. That refers for the case’s purpose to Absolute Poker’s operations serving U.S. customers from the middle of 2007 through 2009.
The plea deal was formally signed on May 31st but not filed into online court records until last week. Tom will be sentenced on September 28, 2017 by U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara Moses. Both Tom’s counsel and AUSA prosecutors will have until Thursday, September 21st to file sentencing memoranda in the case.
Tom becomes the tenth of 11 individual defendants in the 2011 case, known as USA v. Tzvetkoff, to reach a deal with American prosecutors. The only remaining figure in the case still outside the reach of US authorities is Israeli national and original Rational Group (PokerStars) co-founder Isai Scheinberg. Executives from PokerStars (prior to its current ownership by Canada’s Amaya, Inc.), the original Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker were among the case’s defendants, along with several third-party payment processors who served as intermediaries between the site’s and the U.S.’s online banking network.
Scott Tom co-founded Absolute Poker with the help of former University of Montana fraternity brothers in 2002. He returned to the U.S. in late February of this year and was released on $500,000 bond. Tom snuck out of Costa Rica, where Absolute Poker’s operations were based, a few weeks after Black Friday. AP’s offices near San Juan were raided by government authoroities in connection with a no-pay situation for the company’s rank-and-file service employees. Tom soon turned up on the Caribbean island of Antigua, where he lived for nearly six years. The island nation, known formally as Antigua and Barbuda, has no extradition agreement with the U.S.
The filing does not indicate the likelihood of a jail term for Tom, who remains a notorious figure in online-poker circles for his central role in the Absolute Poker cheating scandal. Internal AP documents first published by this writer showed conclusively that Tom himself was the culprit behind the notorious “Potripper” tournament cheating scandal in 2006. (One of the images in that exposé shows the dual log-ins from “playing” and “god-mode/monitoring” accounts from a computer whose logged locations matched Tom’s island-hopping jaunt across the Caribbean.) Other top AP execs were also complicit either in participating in the online cheating or covering up the extended scam.
Absolute Poker as a company admitted officially to only about $600,000 of insider cheating spanning those few weeks in 2006, though the real total was likely at least a magnitude higher. Statements given to this writer by former company insiders stated that for years the company’s top brass used accounts with that “god mode” (able to see opponents’ hole cards) capability to illicitly win back tournament overlays from participating players.
Scott Tom’s probable escape from a lengthy jail term is implied by the language of the plea agreement, but a significant fine is likely involved. The primary reason Tom is likely to avoid harsher punishment is that the SDNY charges based on the 2006 UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) are legally focused on the U.S. banking system.
At Absolute Poker, Tom’s step-brother Brent Beckley had primary responsibility for setting up payment-processing channels to and from the U.S., Beckley, another of the Black Friday defendants, returned to the States in 2012 to face his own Black Friday charges. Beckley paid a healthy fine and was sentenced to 14 months in a federal prison. He eventually served 10 months in a Colorado work camp before being released.