An UltimateBet Scandal Look-Back: Paul Leggett Releasing Names of 29 of 31 ‘Accomplices’
Time for a brief history lesson. Friday’s release of secretly recorded tapes by former Russ Hamilton computer guy Travis Makar, involving principals of UltimateBet discussing the insider cheating scandal at that site, has drawn plenty of attention. The UB cheating occurred from 2003-07 and resulted in a reported refund of $22.1 million to affected players. Makar’s recent info dump has shed renewed light on both the primary people involved and the company’s efforts to first cover up the cheating, then minimize the impact of the scandal on UB’s ongoing business.
The central figure was, of course, Russ Hamilton, one of the major early investors in UltimateBet (though not one of the founders, as is widely reported). Hamilton was directly responsible for a majority of the funds stolen, using an internal program the UltimateBet execs called “AuditMonster,” a version of which had been adapted to allow the viewing or opponents’ hole cards. Hamilton, the 1994 WSOP main event winner, and others used this information to steal money from players at the UB tables, since it’s darned easy to win at poker when you know what the other players are holding.
On September 29, 2008, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission issued an 11-page decision naming Hamilton as the primary culprit, after having investigated the cheating (and deciding what to do about it) for nearly eight months. The KGC report, which in itself was fraudulent in many ways and appears to have been a negotiated rendering of the facts, included many strange moments, none more so than its declaration that Hamilton had at least 31 accomplices, whom the KGC then declined to name.
However, the KGC made plenty of other bogus noise in its proclamation, including the laughable statement that information on the cheaters had been given to the “authorities”. A well-placed source later told me that this involved one of the KGC officials calling his brother-in-law, a patrol officer with the local Kahnawake tribal police force, and telling him about the cheating. As far as giving the information to US or Canada federal officials, or Interpol, or even John Walsh for an episode of “America’s Most Wanted,” no, that didn’t happen.
Instead, it took a year or so for partial lists of these 31 “other” cheaters to emerge, through a curious and semi-official chain that started with Paul Leggett and went through Joe Sebok. Sebok had promised to get to the bottom of the scandal, and while he never did close to that, he did help at least with the procuring of the names.
Even at that, though, it was part of Sebok’s being a puppet to the whims of Leggett and the owners of Absolute Poker, who were in an extended legal battle with UB’s owners to secure complete control of UltimateBet, after a hasty post-UIGEA marriage between UB and AP in late 2006. The release of those names via Sebok was a part of that power play.
The UB/AP marriage didn’t work too well, and despite AP’s own insider cheating scandal, the massive nature of the Hamilton-centered UB cheating finally gave the AP side the legal upper hand.
Anyhow, Leggett used Sebok to slowly distribute two lists of names to sources such as WickedChopsPoker and Michael “Mookman1” Corriveau, though it fell to yours truly to publish the revelation that the KGC lists were largely a sham, including plenty of names that even a couple of hours of decent internet-based research would have easily exposed.
All told, the lists Leggett disseminated included 29 names, though one of Russ Hamilton’s mistresses, Natalie Digioia, was on the list twice. The combined lists included 17 (or 16) real names, and 12 provable fakes, and many more names, both real and fake, would emerge later on. According to the lists supplied by Leggett, these real people were involved along with Hamilton:
Natalie M. Digioia
Haim M Bajayo
Dennis A Novinskey
Anthony Houston Curtis
David “Devilfish” Ulliott
Then there were the fakes, which were created as extra accounts for Hamilton to use in his part of the cheating:
Arthur L Hunt
One of those wasn’t really too much of a fake, at that: The “Carol Plizga” account was really an account originally in the name of Russ’s wife, Carolyn Hamilton, that Russ himself used as part of the cheating. It had been hastily renamed internally at UB as the cheating scandal first emerged into public knowledge.
The lists that emerged via the KGC and Leggett were very suspect, including several people who likely had their names attached to accounts that were really in Russ’s control, while several other people who were demonstrably connected to the cheating — such as Mansour Matloubi — were nowhere in sight. And of course, the fact that Leggett sent the fake names out without any evidence of even a cursory internal investigation showed just how much effort went into it.
I’m not sure anyone has ever published a combined list of the 29 names as sent out by Leggett, so here it is. In our next post, which begins an examination of the recordings released by Makar, we’ll look at one of the real names on the list above who hasn’t received too much attention to date.