NEW YORK – A Chicago man pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges Monday, admitting that he helped Internet poker companies find banks to process millions of dollars in gambling proceeds even though he knew it was illegal.
Bradley Franzen, 41, also signed a cooperation agreement, agreeing to testify if necessary at any trial to result from a government prosecution that has already caused the three largest online poker companies to shut down their U.S. operations.
Franzen was one of 11 people charged last month in the probe. He pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Manhattan to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, accepting funds in connection with illegal gambling and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The charges carry a potential prison term of up to 30 years but the plea agreement calls for prosecutors to recommend leniency at an Aug. 26 sentencing if Franzen cooperates fully.
Franzen admitted he illegally helped link gambling companies with banks by using shell companies and phony websites.
He said he began doing so after he was first contacted in 2009 at his Costa Rica home by an Internet poker company owner who wanted to process checks online but knew that banks were not doing so and were not permitted to accept the proceeds of Internet gambling.
Magistrate Judge Kevin Fox, who heard the plea in place of a district judge, asked Franzen if he knew how much money was processed as a result of his help.
"It was millions of dollars, but I don't know how much," Franzen said.
His lawyer, Sam Schmidt, declined to comment.
The prosecution has resulted in the shutting down of U.S. Internet gambling by PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker.
Prosecutors say the poker companies obtained about $3 billion illegally by letting people in the U.S. gamble on their websites.
Follow Larry Neumeister at http://twitter.com/Lneumeister
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