ST. GEORGE — A St. George banker made an appearance in federal court Monday to face charges related to an alleged multibillion-dollar online gambling conspiracy.
John Campos, 57, attended a hearing before Magistrate Judge Robert T. Braithwaite in U.S. District Court here. He was arrested Friday on suspicion of violating Internet gambling laws, operating an illegal gambling business and money laundering.
Braithwaite authorized his release from custody with the conditions that he surrender his passport, report to pretrial services as requested and appear at future hearings, which will be in New York where the indictment was filed.
Campos, vice chairman and part owner of SunFirst Bank, was among 11 men federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York indicted last week for their alleged roles in a conspiracy involving the three largest Internet poker companies doing business in the United States — PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker. They are based in The Isle of Man, Ireland and Costa Rica, respectively.
"As charged, these defendants concocted an elaborate criminal fraud scheme, alternately tricking some U.S. banks and effectively bribing others to assure the continued flow of billions in illegal gambling profits," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
"Moreover, as we allege, in their zeal to circumvent the gambling laws, the defendants also engaged in massive money laundering and bank fraud."
The 2006 Internet gambling enforcement act makes it federal crime for gambling businesses to knowingly accept most forms of payment in connection with a person participating in unlawful online gambling. Despite the law, offshore Internet companies continue operating in the U.S., federal officials say.
The poker companies allegedly duped American banks and credit card issuers into processing the poker companies' payments.
In the case of SunFirst, Campos initially had "trepidations," but then allegedly agreed to process gambling transactions in return for a $10 million investment in SunFirst by a Las Vegas man named Chad Elie and an associate, according to prosecutors. The investment would have given Elie, who is named in the indictment, and his associate 30 percent ownership in the bank.
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