Nearly six years to the day after the industry’s infamous “Black Friday,” players who had funds frozen on the Absolute Poker or Ultimate Bet online poker platforms have been offered an official opportunity to recoup their losses.
Per a press release issued by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Joon H. Kim has initiated a process to repay affected players:
“The United States has retained the Garden City Group (“GCG”) to oversee a process for compensating eligible victims of a fraud committed by Absolute Poker against United States players who were unable to withdraw funds from Absolute Poker following the Office’s filing in 2011 of a civil money laundering and forfeiture action against Absolute Poker and others in United States v. PokerStars, et al.
GCG is already overseeing the claims process for eligible victims of the fraud committed by Full Tilt Poker against United States players, as described in both United States v. PokerStars, et al., and the indictment in the parallel criminal case, United States v. Bitar, et. al. To date, approximately $118 million has been paid to Full Tilt Poker fraud victims through that process.”
Both the Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet online poker platforms operated as part of the Cereus Network during the industry’s boom years. The sites each suffered through separate cheating scandals which rocked the online poker world, before closing down for good on April 15, 2011.
Dubbed “Black Friday” forever afterward, that was the day the DOJ unsealed indictments collectively known as United States v. Scheinberg, 10 Cr. 336 (2011).
A subsequent case, United States v. PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker, et al., 11 Civ. 2564, specifically named Absolute Poker and Cereus Network executives.
The terms of those indictments called for five domain names to be seized and shuttered, effectively ending legal online poker in America at the time: Pokerstars.com, Fulltiltpoker.com, Absolutepoker.com, Ultimatebet.com and UB.com.
Of the five, only PokerStars proved to be a solvent financial operation, with chief rival Full Tilt Poker dissolving amidst executive fraud and misappropriated player funds.
As mentioned by acting U.S. Attorney Kim in the press release, the DOJ has contracted Garden City Group (GCG) – the same company which oversaw a largely successful repayment process for former Full Tilt Poker players.
According to Online Poker Report, that GCG-led remissions process has paid back 83 percent of Full Tilt Poker’s player base, resulting in $118 million in player funds being redistributed to their rightful owners.
The DOJ’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, working in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney for the District of New York, has launched the Absolute Poker Claims Administration website to assist affected players.
Players who believe they had funds frozen on Absolute Poker can visit the following link to begin the petition process: www.absolutepokerclaims.com.
In addition, the GCG began mailing out notices to potential victims on April 10.
A deadline of June 9 has been established for the filing of claims petitions.
And while neither Ultimate Bet nor the Cereus Network are mentioned by name in the DOJ announcement, chatter on Twitter by former players suggests that Ultimate Bet’s player base has been included in the GCG’s auditing process.
Ordinary players who have their petitions approved will be returned their last known account balance. As for affiliates, the Absolute Poker Claims website outlines a more complex formula used to calculate repayment plans.