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Full Tilt Poker cheated players out of $300 million, WSJ says

The Justice Department claims the Web site is a Ponzi scheme that paid out celebrity players Howard Lederer and Christopher Ferguson.

Screenshot by Roger Cheng/CNET

The U.S. Department of Justice accused celebrity poker players Howard Lederer and Christopher Ferguson and other executives who ran the Web site Full Tilt Poker of defrauding players of more than $300 million, The Wall Street Journal reported today.

The U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York amended an earlier civil complaint to allege that the players and two other directors of Full Tilt Poker ran a Ponzi scheme, in which the individuals illegally paid themselves with funds that were deposited by players supposedly for safe keeping.

The Web site's domain has been seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the site can only be used to help players withdraw funds held by Full Tilt.

"Full Tilt was not a legitimate poker company, but a global Ponzi scheme," said Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District, in a statement issued to the Journal.

The regulators claim the company paid its own executives even as it misled customers and the public about the safety and security of the money deposited with the company.

Full Tilt did not respond to an e-mail sent by CNET asking for more details and a response to the claims.

The Full Tilt logo was a regular fixture worn on hats, shirts, and other articles of clothing by poker players who competed in televised events. The Web site touted the ability to compete against professional players, as well as get tips and advice.