Yesterday, Full Tilt Poker founder Raymond Bitar pled guilty to unlawful internet gambling, as well as conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud. Federal prosecutors busted his site in 2011, saying it was basically a big-ass Ponzi scheme. Mr. Bitar was arrested last year when he returned to the U.S.
But even though he’s copped to his crimes, he’s not going to serve anything like the max of 35 years in prison (or even the six years recommended by federal sentencing guidelines). That’s because Mr. Bitar is a very sick man, and jail time would essentially be a death sentence.
U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska today approved a plea agreement between Bitar, 41, and prosecutors, sentencing him to the seven days he served in jail last year, after saying an additional prison sentence would kill him.
Bitar, who is scheduled to enter a heart-transplant program May 6, wouldn’t be eligible if he were sentenced to prison, Preska said. He would be unlikely to survive a term in prison, she said.
Prosecutors couldn’t let it go without making it clear that Mr. Bitar is only getting off because of his “extraordinary medical circumstances”: Assistant U.S. Attorney Arlo Devlin Brown informed the judge that “Mr. Bitar is the most culpable, in the government’s view.”
Of course, Mr. Bitar also has to give up $40 million worth of his ill-gotten gains. “I don’t think any of us would trade places with him, no matter what,” the judge concluded. No kidding.