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Poker Payment Processor Loses Conviction Appeal

MANHATTAN (CN) - A man who pleaded guilty to concealing gambling transactions for the three leading poker websites cannot claim now that the indictment alleged a "nonoffense," the 2nd Circuit ruled.

Ira Rubin was sentenced on Aug. 6, 2012, to 36 months in prison after entering an "unconditional guilty plea" to conspiracy to violate the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, and conspiracy to lauder money.

Sentencing guidelines for the offenses to which Rubin had pleaded guilty called for 18 to 24 months imprisonment, but U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan arrived at 36 months by applying an upward variance.

The longer term took into account Rubin's criminal past and fraudulent conduct over 30 years, plus Kaplan's finding that Rubin was "an unreformed con man and fraudster" who would "cook up some new scheme" upon his release from prison.

On appeal, Rubin claimed that he had been indicted over "conduct exempted from prosecution under the UIGEA - a so called 'non-offense'- depriving the District Court of jurisdiction to accept his guilty plea," according to the ruling.

He also challenged the reasonableness of his sentence.

A three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit affirmed Wednesday.

"We need not resolve this dispute because, even assuming arguendo that Count One alleged a so-called 'non-offense,' Rubin's unconditional guilty plea precludes his argument on appeal," Judge Jose Cabranes wrote for the panel. "Generally, 'in order to reserve an issue for appeal after a guilty plea, a defendant must obtain the approval of the court and the consent of the government, and he must reserve the right to appeal in writing.' Rubin did not reserve the right to appeal here. Absent such a reservation, 'a defendant who knowingly and voluntarily enters a guilty plea waives all non-jurisdictional defects in the prior proceedings.'"

The unconditional guilty plea also waived Rubin's challenge that the indictment failed to state an offense under the UIGEA, the ruling states.

Cabranes also rejected Rubin's claim that is sentence, in comparison those faced by his co-conspirators and other offenders, is "disproportionate."

"We agree with the District Court that Rubin was not similarly situated to his co-conspirators," Cabranes wrote. "Rubin's personal characteristics were considerably different from those of the co-defendants, and his co-defendants did not have lengthy criminal records and a corresponding high likelihood of recidivism. With regard to Rubin's role in the offense, although he did not run a gambling website himself, Rubin made it possible for the internet poker companies to operate in the United States by disguising gambling payments as legitimate transactions so banks would not block them."

Because of all these factors, the District Court was not unreasonable and "well within its discretion" when sentencing Rubin to 36 months in prison, the panel found.

"For the reasons stated above, we affirm the August 6, 2012 judgment of the District Court," Cabranes concluded.

While the ruling does not name the companies for which Rubin acted as a payment processor, the three that faced the wrath of federal prosecutors in 2011 were Pokerstars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker.

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