Honor Among Theives … I Think Not

by Lou on April 18, 2011

Way back on October 1, 2010, I blogged, “With Canadian internet gambling money-mover Douglas Rennick sentenced to home instead of a long stretch in the slammer, it raises the chances that accused Australian fraudster Daniel Tzvetkoff (pictured left) will also receive a slap on the wrist and dodge a lengthy stint in an American jail … Tzvetkoff was looking at 75 years in prison, but rumors have it that he may also have struck a plea bargain with prosecutors from the Southern District of New York—the prosecutorial group that handles these crimes.”

I went on to speculate “that Tzvetkoff and Rennick are cooperating with prosecutors, which might lead to a spate of arrests and charges later on.”

Now it looks like I was spot-on in my take on all this.  Tzvetkoff is allegedly singing like the proverbial canary in exchange for a vastly reduced sentence.  And how did this all come about?

Current rumors say that he was accused by PokerStars of stealing money from them—maybe as much as 100 million dollars. When he wouldn’t pay up, Stars dropped the dime on him, letting the Department of Justice know when he’d be in the United States so that he could be arrested.

That’ll teach him, right? Wrong. All it did was convince him to spill his guts to the Feds, so instead of rotting in a jail cell, he’s probably ensconced in a nice Manhattan hotel with a big-screen TV, room service and maybe even a gym. And while he’s not home in Australia, at least he’s not stuck in some dank, dark prison cell with real bad guys for neighbors.

If this is the way the scenario played out—and how it played out is still speculation no matter how authoritatively the source you read wants you to believe it is the God’s honest truth—I frankly don’t understand it.  It was obviously clear to Tzvetkoff that he was not DOJ’s primary interest in the case.  He was merely a way to get to who they really wanted: PokerStars and Full Tilt.  If PokerStars indeed were the ones who dropped the dime on him, they should have realized this too, and turning your second worst enemy over to your first worst enemy was not the best decision they could have made.

And like a poker player thinking through a hand to conjecture about future betting rounds and not merely the current one, they should have realized that the DOJ would be all too willing to play “Let’s Make a Deal” with the bird they had in hand in order to get the two birds still in the bush.

I’m not an attorney, but DOJ’s case must be weakened a bit by virtue of the fact that their star witness—if this case does go to trial—will be a well-dressed version of a jail house snitch willing to give up everyone in sight for a reduced sentence.  While I’d listen to his testimony and consider it if I were on this jury, I’d also be skeptical of any testimony bought and paid for with a reduced sentence for the guy testifying.

If the online sites now under indictment knew enough about Tzvetkoff’s movements to tip off the feds about when he would be coming to the US, there were certainly other options available to them.  Once this has all ended, Tzvetkoff will have to live a life under cover, in some form of witness protection.  Since he is a guy who apparently likes to live life very large and might chafe bit if unable to call attention to himself and his importance in the future, succeeding in a witness protection program seems like a long shot to me.

He’ll have to spend his entire life looking over his shoulder, and that’s not a pleasant prospect.  My thoughts keep drifting back to a famous case that happened before any of us were born.  When Abe “Kid Twist” Reles decided that it was in his best interests to testify against his cohorts in Murder, Inc., he was kept in protective custody at Coney Island’s Half Moon Hotel, where he was under 24/7 guard by New York’s finest on the hotel’s eleventh floor.  To no one’s surprise, Reles was found on a ledge ten stories below his window one morning, and the police investigating it said he probably jumped or fell to his death.  The newspapers labeled Reles as “…the canary who could sing but couldn’t fly.”

While that sort of thing happened much more frequently in those days, once Tzvetkoff made the choice to testify, he simultaneously made the decision to live his life with one eye always looking over his shoulder.  So where’s the honor among thieves?  That’s just the price to be paid for throwing all your former colleagues under the bus.

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