Bethany Krajelis Mar. 12, 2013, 4:56pm

A pair of defendants in a St. Clair County class action lawsuit over a gambling website has removed the matter to federal court.

Tiltware LLC and Erik Seidel earlier this month filed notice of removal to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, saying the federal court has jurisdiction over the suit.

Individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, Judy Fahrner brought a complaint in January against 26 defendants, both individuals and companies associated with Full Tilt Poker, a website that offers online poker rooms.

Fahrner claims in her complaint that she and other Illinois residents invested money into the site's poker games and then lost it all when the Department of Justice shut down the card rooms.

In April 2011, according to the complaint, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York seized assets of some internet poker companies, including Full Tilt Poker, and issued arrest warrants for the founders of these companies in relation to an investigation into money laundering and bank and wire fraud.

Four of the individual defendants named in Fahrner’s suit were also named in that criminal indictment. The Department of Justice also filed a civil suit for forfeiture and seizure of proceeds from illegal acts that these poker companies, including Full Tilt Poker, were allegedly engaged in.

By August 2012, some or all of the Full Tilt Enterprise had been bought by Pokerstars, another enterprise focusing on online poker games, the complaint states.

Fahrner contends that “hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of Illinois residents held personal funds in individual, ‘secure’ accounts with Full Tilt Poker” and that “the deposited funds were fraudulently co-mingled with Full Tilt’s operational funds and dispersed to individual defendants.”

She further asserts that “Upon information and belief, Full Tilt’s Board of Directors distributed approximately $443,860,529.89 to themselves and other owners between April 2007 and April 2011.”

The complaint includes 26 counts, one against each of the defendants for an alleged violation of an Illinois statute governing gambling.

Each count seeks to recover the gambling losses and up to three times the amount of losses in damages.

According to the defendants in their notice of removal, the putative class allegedly has more than 100 members, one of three reasons why they assert the federal court has jurisdiction over the matter.

The defendants also contend that the federal court has jurisdiction over the suit because the requested amount of recovery and damages makes "it reasonable to conclude that the $5 million jurisdictional amount is satisfied.”

In addition, they claim in their removal notice that the suit satisfies minimum diversity because all of the plaintiffs and none of the defendants are Illinois citizens.

U.S. District Court Judge William Stiehl recused himself from the case in a March 8 order that stated the matter was reassigned to Judge Michael Reagan by random draw.

Belleville attorney Lloyd M. Cueto filed the complaint on Fahrner’s behalf.

The notice of removal shows that Belleville attorneys William J. Niehoff and Laura Schrick are representing the defendants, along with Washington D.C. attorneys A. Jeff Ifrah, David Deitch and Rachel Hirsch.

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U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York
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