Judge Puts Kibosh on Black Friday Plea Deal

by Lou on March 30, 2012

The government’s planned prosecution of Utah banker John Campos hit a road block of sorts, when US District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan ordered prosecutors to explain in writing why they let former Utah banker John Campos plead guilty to a misdemeanor instead of a felony, and avoid a trial scheduled for April 9. When Judge Kaplan blocked the guilty plea, he said he needed to know why the government was walking away from the case.

This was to have been the only scheduled trial resulting from charges brought against a dozen individuals in poker’s Black Friday raids that shuttered the operations of PokerStars, Full Tilt, Absolute Poker and UB in the United States.  Half of those charged remain fugitives, while the others have pleaded to charges.

“You’re basically walking away from the prosecution?” Kaplan asked, questioning the severity of the outcome after Campos admitted that the bank where he served as vice chairman of its board of directors and a part owner processed $200 million in gambling proceeds between late 2009 and last year.

The judge said he’ll decide whether to accept the plea at a June 27 sentencing.

Campos’ deal is an acknowledgement of trial risks, admitted Assistant U.S. Attorney Arlo Devlin-Brown.  Campos had received legal opinions suggesting that it might not be illegal to process money for Internet gambling companies.

“There would be a risk that a jury on that basis could have a problem,” Devlin-Brown said.

Campos admitted as part of his plea that SunFirst Bank processed gambling proceeds, and that PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker promised to invest $10 million in his bank. Through his lawyer, Campos stated that he did not believe the investment was in return for the processing of gambling proceeds.

Assistant US Attorney Andrew Goldstein said the stipulated sentencing range of up to six months in prison was about what Campos would face if he pleaded guilty to a felony, and that the government succeeded in banning the 57-year-old Campos from future jobs with banking institutions.

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