Daniel Tzvetkoff was once one of Australia’s most successful young businessmen, but he faces jail in the US for bank fraud and money laundering.
Daniel Tzvetkoff, the Queensland business whiz who became an informant and key player in the shutting down of America’s multibillion-dollar online poker industry, could avoid jail time in the US.
Tzvetkoff was facing a 75-year sentence in America’s harsh federal prison system when he was arrested in Las Vegas in 2010 for illegally processing more than $US1 billion, but the 31-year-old, along with his parents and mother-in-law, have made a passionate plea to a New York judge ahead of his sentencing.
Tzvetkoff, who handed over more than 90,000 documents to US prosecutors that helped them go after the heads of three of the world’s biggest gambling companies – PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker – was released from a New York prison four months after his arrest, went into hiding in the US, and pled guilty to bank fraud and money laundering charges.
He has recently been living and working in Australia.
Tzvetkoff’s Boston-based lawyer, Robert Goldstein, told the sentencing judge Tzvetkoff was employed in Australia “as chief technical officer for a respectable organisation”.
His parents, Kim and Julie Tzvetkoff, in a letter to the judge, wrote their once impressionable” son has matured into a “responsible, capable and motivated young man” while mother-in-law Karen Crisp said Tzvetkoff was “young at the time and therefore easily influenced by others”.
It appears the assistance Tzvetkoff gave to prosecutors has paid off.
A probation report recommends a sentence of between six and 12 months’ jail.
Goldstein said Tzvetkoff should avoid further jail time and be sentenced to the four months he served in a Brooklyn prison after his arrest.
“For a first-time offender who has never before experienced prison, four-plus months inside the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn constitutes a harsh and significant punishment,” Goldstein wrote in his sentencing submission.
“The reality is that even one day in those type of conditions can be exceedingly harsh punishment for a first-time offender like Mr Tzvetkoff.”
Tzvetkoff was once a high-flying media darling in Australia with an estimated worth of $82 million, a $27 million home on the Gold Coast and a garage filled with Lamborghinis and Ferraris, and was a sponsor of V8 Supercar racing team, Team IntaRacing.
He made the millions via his Queensland-based financial processing company Intabill.
Intabill processed transactions between US gamblers and illegal internet gambling companies, with the transactions disguised so banks would not know they were gambling related.
Tzvetkoff’s world crashed in 2009 when the internet poker companies accused him of stealing about $US100 million.
Authorities swooped on Tzvetkoff in April 2010, while he was at Las Vegas’ upmarket Encore casino.
A year later, with Tzvetkoff out of jail and assisting prosecutors, the US Department of Justice suddenly shut down the American operations of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker, a day dubbed Black Friday.
Isai Scheinberg and Paul Tate of PokerStars, Raymond Bitar and Nelson Burtnick of Full Tilt Poker, and Scott Tom and Brent Beckley of Absolute Poker were charged with bank fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling offences.