A group of disgruntled online poker players are now trying to flush out the law firm they feel looked the other way while they were being bluffed by the website’s owners.
A class action lawsuit was filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California alleging that Cozen O’Connor knew or had reason to know that the more than $2 million in fees it made representing Full Tilt Poker was derived from illegal sources.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) went all in on the gaming website in September, accusing its board of directors, including Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, Rafael Furst and Raymond Bitar, of defrauding its players out of more than $440 million.
The DOJ alleged the board misrepresented that players’ funds were safe and available for withdrawal at any time when, in reality, those funds were not available and used to pay the board members and other owners.
"As the proposed Amended Complaint describes in detail, Full Tilt was not a legitimate poker company, but a global Ponzi scheme,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a release. “As a result of our enforcement actions this alleged self-dealing scheme came to light. Not only did the firm orchestrate a massive fraud against the U.S. banking system, as previously alleged, Full Tilt also cheated and abused its own players to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.”
The putative class of 200,000 plaintiffs also names Ferguson, Furst, Lederer and the site’s other owners as defendants. The lawsuit alleges fraud, federal anti-racketeering law violations, unjust enrichment and California civil law violations against the defendants.
Cozen, which has represented some of the defendants in the DOJ’s case against Full Tilt, was not part of that action.
As of press time, Cozen had not yet responded to InsideCounsel’s request for comment.