Judge Refuses Plea Deal in Campos Case

There is a new wrinkle in the Black Friday case of John Campos. The Vice Chair of SunFirst Bank in Utah reached a plea agreement for a single misdemeanor conspiracy charge earlier this week, but now the judge presiding over the case is refusing to immediately accept the plea.

According to the Associated Press, US District Judge  Lewis A. Kaplan did not immediately accept the plea, instead requesting a written explanation from the prosecution as the why they are walking away from the case.  Campos is the sixth person in the April 15th indictment to reach a plea agreement. Like Chad Elie and the others who reached a deal., Campos ended up pleading guilty to a single charge even though the indictment was for a number of bank fraud and conspriacy-related charges. In addition to the misdemeanor plea, Campos will also be banned from working in the banking industry in the future.

The article reported that Kaplan questioned why the prosecution agreed to such a reduced plea which included no felony charges and just six months in prison.  Assistant US Attorney Arlo Devlin-Brown explained to the AP that there were risks to taking the case to trial.  According to Brown, Campos sought advice from several experts in the gambling world that told him it was legal for his bank to process online gambling transactions.

That, combined with the fact that Campos claimed he was not aware that the $10 million investment from online poker companies into the bank was not a payment in order to persuade the bank to process poker transactions, meant, “there would be a risk that a jury on that basis could have a problem,” Brown explained.

Campos’ sentencing is set to take place on June 27th, which is when Kaplan will definitively decide on whether or not he will accept the plea.

Industry analyst and attorney Dave Behr spoke with BLUFF regarding what this development means in the greater scheme of the Black Friday indictments.

“Judge Kaplan is concerned that the DOJ doesn’t have the stomach for this high-profile case anymore. A single misdemeanor conspiracy count for each of Elie and Campos is essentially a slap on the wrist,” Behr explains. There are a couple of explanations why the DOJ is backing off the payment processors, middle men, and bankers involved in the case.

“It could be an indication that the DOJ’s case is weaker than many believe. It also could be a tactical choice by the DOJ to reserve its ammunition for the real targets — the PokerStars, Full Tilt and UB defendants,” says Behr.

As Behr points out, the five men who have yet to be arraigned on charges are the biggest players in the April 15th indictment. Isai Scheinberg and Paul Tate of PokerStars, Ray Bitar and Nelson Burtnick of Full Tilt Poker, and Scott Tom of UB have yet to face charges almost a year after the indictment came down.

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