Prosecuters hoped to avoid trial by reducing charges

Apr 2, 2012 8:06 PM

Federal prosecutors hoped to avoid a trial in the case of a Utah banker who admitted processing some $200 million in illegal funds involved in Internet poker by agreeing to reduced charges from felonies to misdemeanors.

The announcement came just days before John Campos, former vice-chairman of a Utah bank, was to go on trial on charges of conspiring to commit bank fraud and operating an illegal gambling business.

But everyone appearing before Lewis A. Kaplan in Manhattan, New York City, was shocked when the jurist announced he would not accept the guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge and ordered the federal prosecutors to submit in writing the reasons for reducing the charges.

Under the misdemeanor charge, Campos would probably be sentenced to about six months in jail.

"You’re basically walking away from the prosecution" Kaplan said, noting that he had the power to reject the plea deal. He added that he would decide whether to accept the plea at a June 27 sentencing.

Just days earlier, Chad Elie, a payment processor who was associated with Campos, admitted his role in the payment processing plan and agreed to forfeit his interest in more than $25 million held in various Internet poker accounts. He will also pay some $500,000 to the prosecutors.

Following the judge’s pronouncement, prosecutors admitted there were trial risks involving the prosecution of Campos.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Arlo Devlin-Brown indicated that there were some legal opinions that suggested that it might not be illegal to process the money for Internet gambling.

A dozen people were indicted in the case involving such well-known Internet poker sites as PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. Reportedly, a half-dozen of those charged have pleaded guilty while a number of others live outside the U.S.