Chad Elie plead guilty to charges of conspiring to commit bank fraud and operating an illegal gambling business in relation to the Black Friday case that shut down American online poker almost exactly a year ago.
Elie’s case was settled on a plea bargain that helped him avoid an April 9 trial and, potentially, as many as 85 years in prison. Under the terms of his plea, it’s expected that he’ll receive of sentence somewhere between six months and a year in Federal prison; and will have to forfeit $500,00 in illicit gambling money.
During his plea hearing, Elie confessed to his role in setting up fake bank accounts at Utah’s SunFirst bank to help disguise gambling funds. In open court he declared, “I knew that my conduct was wrong.”
Few experienced gamblers would be interested in taking their chances on eight decades in prison, but Elie had some extra incentive to take a plea bargain. Just last week his former business associate Daniel Tzvetkoff agreed to testify for the prosecution.
Along with his testimony, Tzvetkoff offered the Feds a treasure trove of over 90,000 documents related to the case. Included in the documents were a vast number of personal e-mails and memos between the two men.
Elie’s lawyers had complained that prosecutors had dumped the Tzvetkoff documents on them without providing ample time to review them before the trial. It’s believed that this may have played a role in Ellie’s willingness to settle the case without a trial.
Tzvetkoff’s willingness to cooperate with prosecutors may, however, clear up the mystery of why he was released on bond after being held for five months in custody.
Tzvetkoff played a prominent role in helping establish dummy accounts in the SunFirst Bank in Utah. SunfFirst, a private bank, was run by Elie’s co-defendant John Campos. Campos has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing in the case, using the “poker-is-a-game-skill” defense. Though the DOJ has come to agree with that assertion, Campos is still facing charges.
With the beginning of his trial just two weeks away, it’s expected that Campos will take some sort of plea deal as well. His potential prison sentence on the charges he’s currently facing is 35 years.
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