Ryan Lang entered a guilty plea to charges of financial wrongdoing in connection with the Black Friday investigation that crippled the online poker industry. Lang, a Canadian citizen, is facing as much as 30 years in prison for his part in masking the movement of gambling proceeds from site including Poker Stars, Full Tilt, and Absolute Poker.
Charges against Lang included conspiracy to commit tax fraud and violating the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act; accepting funds in connection with Internet gambling; and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
It’s not known whether Lang has cut a deal to serve his sentence in Canada or whether he’ll be serving it in the United States. Lang is the fourth Black Friday figure to enter a guilty plea with regards to the case.
Lang was a middleman who helped gaming companies disguise payments to Americans, circumventing U.S. laws in the process. Gaming proceeds were disguised to look like payments from innocuous Internet retailers instead of gambling sites. Under U.S. law, gambling online isn’t illegal, but processing and receiving profits from that gambling is illegal.
Though he did plead guilty and apologize to anyone he may have harmed in the commission of his crimes, Lang is hardly Al Capone. His overall role in what prosecutors called, “a global Ponzi scheme,” was fairly minor in the big picture. (In fact, this is the first CAP story to even mention Lang and a Google search for his connection with Black Friday yields very few results.)
Lang is hoping that entering a guilt plea, will help him receive a reduced prison stay when he receives his sentencing on September 27.
Black Friday Legacy
No matter what your stance on online gaming, there’s no question that Lang knowingly engaged in illegal activities. He gambled that prosecutors would never catch wind of his activities, or would just ignore them, and he lost. His case is a good lesson for everyone operating on the fringes of legal activities that the Department of Justice does not play games when it comes to online gambling.
Just this week Bodog founder and gaming industry giant Calvin Ayre was indicted on gambling and money laundering charges in an unrelated gaming case. And it’s doubtful that he’ll be the last person to see one of these indictments.
The message from the DOJ is clear; collecting and processing the winnings from online gambling is still illegal. Federal prosecutors are happy to chase after the big fish and little minnows who run afoul of the law.