Cheaters and Thieves Week: Scott Tom Returns to US to Face Black Friday Charges
The disgraced former CEO of Absolute Poker, Scott Tom, has returned to the United States to stand trial on multiple felonies brought against him as part of the US’s 2011 “Black Friday” crackdown targeting online poker.
News of Tom’s return to the US was reported late Thursday by outlets such as Reuters and Fortune, following Tom’s surprise appearance in the US Southern District of New York courtroom of long-time presiding judge for the Black Friday cases, Lewis A. Kaplan.
The primary outlets reported a few basics, such as that Tom was released on $500,000 bond. Tom’s attorney, James Henderson, told a gaggle of court reports that “there’s going to be a resolution in this case quickly.”
Flushdraw has since obtained court documents showing that Tom’s more-or-less voluntary surrender to US agents, from Antigua by way of Barbados, was months in the making. Tom was actually arrested by a waiting agent at about 10 a.m. on February 23rd, 2017, at an undisclosed airport. Tom apparently has been detained from then until this week while awaiting Thursday’s initial arraignment hearing.
Negotiations between the DOJ and Henderson, a frequent and prominent defense attorney specializing in white-collar crimes, including gambling related offenses, were going on for some time before that. Henderson filed a pro hac vice motion seeking to represent Scott Tom back in January. A modified version of that motion was also approved in February, as Tom was being arrested. Henderson, who practices out of Los Angeles, has represented numerous gamblers in high-profile cases over the years.
The mainstream stories have omitted additional details about Tom’s negotiated return and release. All of the actions approved by Judge Kaplan on Thursday were actually agreed to back in February. The conditions for bail for Scott Tom include the following:
- Tom was granted release on a personal recognizance bond (PRB) of $500,000;
- Of that $500,000, only $100,000 was put up in cash, and that in the form of a cashier’s check offered by Tom’s father, Philip Tom;
- Phil Tom, as he’s more commonly known in poker circles (including at the WSOP, where he once won an LHE bracelet) also put up one of his properties as surety for the remaining $400,000 of the half-million-dollar bond;
- Scott Tom will reside until trial at Phil Tom’s house in Las Vegas, but won’t be able to see the old “Absolute Poker” logo in the bottom of Phil’s swimming pool, since that’s long since been painted over;
- Scott Tom will be able to travel to various other regions for ongoing consultations in the case. Those area include greater Los Angeles (his attorney, Henderson), and the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York (for the case and related proceedings). Tom will also be granted leave for a single visit to Idaho to visit his mother’s grave, which he was unable to do while on the lam from the Black Friday charges;
- Scott Tom was also ordered to surrender his passport(s) — according to reports, he’d obtained duplicate citizenship in St. Kitts and Nevis — and to submit to regular pre-trial drug tests.
Tom faces the following felony charges, which have been outstanding since April of 2011:
- Conspiracy to Violate Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act
- Violation of Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGIEA)
- Operation of Illegal Gambling Business
Each of the charges carries a maximum five-year term and a fine of $250,000 or “twice the gross gain or loss,” which in Tom’s case could represent a much larger figure.
Scott Tom, best characterized as the true “founder” of Absolute Poker, belatedly follows the footsteps of his younger stepbrother, Brent Beckley, in surrendering to US authorities on the Black Friday charges, Beckley served several months in a federal work camp in Colorado before being released, and was recently rumored to have returned to the online gambling world, in the employ of US-facing site BetOnline.
Scott Tom the Core Figure in Absolute Poker Insider Cheating Scandal
Tom won’t find the road to redemption anywhere as easy as it might have been for Beckley or several of the other Black Friday defendants. Regardless of the eventual outcome of his trial, Tom is still reviled for his role as the central cheater in the Absolute Poker insider-cheating affair. That cheating stands as a near parallel to the somewhat larger insider cheating that occurred at UltimateBet, a site that Absolute Poker itself ironically acquired not long after 2006’s UIGEA passage.
But though he long denied it, to the extent of selling a falsified timeline of events to literary fraudster Ben Mezrich in the faux-reality book Straight Flush, it was Tom himself behind many of the prominent cheating accounts.
Back in 2007, several prominent high-stakes AP players worked together to statistical prove that a handful of AP accounts had massively cheated others at the AP tables, likely through insider hole-card knowledge. The accounts included POTRIPPER, GRAYCAT (named for one of Phil Tom’s cats, as it turned out), DOUBLEDRAG, POTCHOPPER, STEAMROLLER, PAYUP, ROMNALDO and others.
In 2010, I’d assembled quite the little collection of screen-grabbed images from inside AP operations, and in a series of posts over at my private little Haley’s Poker Blog, I published a number of them to expose Tom’s participation in the cheating.
Here’s just a small sample. Don’t be fooled by some of the munged data, as it was inserted after the fact by AP brass as part of a failed cover-up of the cheating; the combining theme is the warning to AP staffers not to mess with these accounts, as directed by execs including Scott’s stepbrother, Brent Beckley:
Perhaps one of my favorite collections of images is this little assortment showing Scott Tom personally overriding an account block to move money out of one of the cheating accounts and over to his “SPTOM” wallet at ePassPorte:
Just think. Scott Tom’s never been charged nor will he ever face full consequences for any of this stuff, or of much more in a similar vein. All the US case will do is settle the official charges related to the illegal-gambling-enterprise and UIGEA activity. About all the cheating itself, nada. But the cheating is why Tom’s name is Mudd in the gambling world.
No trial date has yet been set for Tom. He’s the tenth of eleven Black Friday defendants to eventually stand trial for the charges brought in 2011.