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Prized FBI informant Daniel Tzvetkoff

 FBI Informant Daniel Tzvetkoff

AUSTRALIAN internet whiz Daniel Tzvetkoff, who has become a prized FBI informant in a bid to avoid a 75-year jail sentence in the US, may have brought down the multibillion-dollar American online poker industry.


The FBI announced on Friday that it had charged 11 people, including the founders of three of the largest internet poker companies in the US, with bank fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling offences. The poker sites PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker have been shut down.

It is believed Gold Coast entrepreneur Tzvetkoff’s decision to turn super-grass and reveal the secret schemes used by poker companies to illegally launder billions of dollars via phony bank accounts and shell companies helped the FBI and New York prosecutors build their case.

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”These defendants, knowing full well their business with US customers and US banks was illegal, tried to stack the deck,” said FBI assistant director Janice Fedarcyk in announcing Friday’s charges. ”They lied to banks about the true nature of their business.”

The internet gambling kingpins, including Isai Scheinberg and Paul Tate of PokerStars, Raymond Bitar and Nelson Burtnick of Full Tilt Poker and Scott Tom and Brent Beckley of Absolute Poker, face 30-year jail terms.

A year ago it was 28-year-old one-time Queensland high-flyer Tzvetkoff who faced the long stint in the US federal prison system for money laundering, bank fraud and other charges. US authorities arrested Tzvetkoff a year ago when he visited one of the top casinos on the Las Vegas strip, the Wynn, for a gambling conference.

Tzvetkoff was painted by prosecutors as the brains behind the creation of an illegal system for processing $US500 million in transactions between US gamblers and internet gaming websites.

He allegedly created shell companies with names unrelated to gambling to process the transactions.

US federal prosecutors vigorously fought to keep Tzvetkoff in jail, battling and eventually overturning a Las Vegas judge’s decision to grant the Australian bail.

He was transferred to a New York jail and sat there until June when he was quietly released with his whereabouts unknown. ”He’s turned the corner, seen the light and is co-operating,” said former FBI agent Harold Copus.