Poker Web Sites Targeted in Federal Crackdown

Eleven people, including the founders of three of the largest online poker companies doing business in the U.S., have been charged in the latest crackdown on Internet gambling by U.S. authorities.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have alleged the poker companies, which are located outside the U.S., tried to sidestep U.S. laws prohibiting banks and credit-card issuers from processing gambling payments by disguising billions of dollars from U.S. gamblers as payments to nonexistent online merchants for golf balls, jewelry, flowers and other merchandise.

After U.S. banks and financial institutions began detecting and shut down bank accounts used by the scheme in late 2009, prosecutors allege, a new strategy was developed in which two online poker websites allegedly persuaded a few small, local banks facing financial difficulties to process their payments in return for multimillion-dollar investments in those banks.

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