Haley's Poker Blog

No bad beats, but still a poker blog... hence the anguish.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Just Conjecturin', Volume 36: More Norwegian Exposure

To clarify a couple of things for readers, the short piece on the corporate shenanigans of Absolute Poker appearing in the online Sunday version of Dagens Naeringsliv (dn.no) is not the major nuclear bomb against AP ownership that I referenced last time out. To view the longer and more important piece in its original entirety, you need to click on that link within the story linked above and fork over a kroner or three to DN. That longer piece appeared on Saturday and is the one really worth checking out.

A bit of backstory: DN reporters Goran Skallmo and Knut Like learned about a secret AP/Madeira Fjord board meeting being held in Toronto, and flew there to capture as much of the action as they could. In addition to a quote or two from the meeting's participants (perhaps captured unknowingly), the DN investigators also grabbed a handful of neat photos showing certain AP execs running around the office as this meeting was going on.

I have a couple of pretty good translations of the piece at this point, but for copyright reasons I can't do much more than offer brief excerpts here and there, though Goran has consented to allow me to run some of the pictures here. One of the key aspects of the DN piece is that a couple of Norwegian lawyers for the Norwegian law firm Bull & Co., particularly one Bjorn Blix, are now feeling some heat. From the piece:

Attorney Bjorn Blix rushes through the reception at the law firm of Bull & Co. During Madeira Fjords general shareholder meeting, he had refused to answer how much he and Bull & Co. has been paid by Madeira Fjord since 2008. There are millions. And officially Madeira Fjord has the no money. Then who pays Bull & Co.?

DN has been given access to informaton [that] shows that Bjorn Blix bills Madeira Fjord 3000 kroner per hour. Last fall Bull & Co. billed Madeira Fjord 550,000 dollars for one and a half months work. The payments came from several different banks in the U.S., Blix explains.

- Have Madeira Fjord accounts in the U.S.?
- No, no.
- But the transfer must show who the sender is?
- No, it does not, said Blix.
- So you simply do not know who has paid you for the assignment?
- No, says Blix and goes his way.

Lawyers are required to follow strict money laundering rules when they receive money from clients. They are supposed to know where the money comes from.


-- DN.no

My educated prediction: More lawyers than Blix are about to be swatted.

Ah, well, on to a couple of photos. The first here is a shot of the frat boys outside their U of Montana Sigma Alpha Epsilon house, circa 2002. The unblurred faces, in order, are Scott Tom, Hilt Tatum IV, Brent Beckley and Garin Gustafson. Click on it for a larger view:



The second is a shot of chairman Ron Janusz, who doesn't own a lot of stock, per se, but is a long time friend of primary fundraiser Hilt Tatum III ("Hilt Sr.") and has served as a willing frontman for the company of late. I've heard his voice before, but had yet to match up the face:



(Both photos courtesy Goran Skallmo.)

If you visit the detailed piece, it's apparent that the DN investigators literally shot some of these photos through eyeholes and slightly-ajar doors. Continuing kudos to Goran and his crew for revealing this important information regarding AP.

* * * * *

Update: An anonymous poster (see comments) claims that the person on the far right in the frat-house photo above isn't Garin Gustafson. Without the original it's hard to say for sure, though there's a tiny chance that the photo might be available in a University of Montana yearbook circa 2001 or 2002.

If it's indeed not Gustafson, as I believe it was identified to DN reporter Skaalmo and his crew, then the likeliest person for it to be is Shane Blackford, a rich trust-fund baby and fellow frat brother who was another of the original founders. Blackford also served a very recent turn as an executive board member.

Here's a blown-up version of the face on the right, along with those infamous wedding photos which included both Gustafson and Blackford:


(above)


Gustafson


Blackford

It still looks like Gustafson to me, though I suppose I could be argued the other way. Anyone have the original?

Monday, May 09, 2011

Announcing the Book

Dimat Enterprises, Inc. is pleased to announce the signing of Haley Hintze to author a book covering the UltimateBet and Absolute Poker online cheating scandal. The as-yet-untitled book will be released in the Fall of 2011.

Haley Hintze is a veteran writer/editor with decades of published writing credits, and at one time served as Editor-in-Chief of PokerNews.com. She reported on the Absolute Poker and UltimateBet cheating scandals for several sites, and has continued her independent investigation at her own blog, http://haleyspokerblog.blogspot.com.

Hintze has assembled a deep library of documents including e-mails, taped conversations, and whistleblower interviews, which detail the inside secrets and cover-ups of these ongoing scandals – much of which has yet to be released to the public. This story will show the corrupt, shady dealings of two major online poker rooms – which later joined as one -- and how they did everything they could to prevent the true stories of the cheating from reaching the poker-playing public.

Dimat Enterprises, Inc. is one of the most popular poker publication companies in the world with titles that include The Poker Mindset by Ian Taylor and Matthew Hilger, the Winning Poker Tournaments One at a Time series by Eric "Rizen" Lynch, Jon "PearlJammer" Turner, and Jon "Apestyles" Van Fleet, the Advanced Pot-Limit Omaha series by Jeff Hwang, Small Stakes No-Limit Hold’em by Ed Miller, Sunny Mehta, and Matt Flynn, and others. Dimat’s next release, The Math of Hold’em by Collin Moshman and Douglas Zare will be released in late May.

------------------------------------------------------------

About Dimat Enterprises, Inc.

Dimat Enterprises, Inc. is a publishing company founded by Matthew Hilger in 2003 and specializes in poker strategy and content. Along with the poker books above, Dimat Enterprises, Inc. has several new releases planned for later this year including Winning Poker Tournaments One Hand at a Time Volume III and Tournament Endgame Strategy. Any authors interested in being published may contact Matthew at pokerbooks.InternetTexasHoldem.com.

Dimat Online, Inc, also owned by Matthew, operates multiple popular poker related websites focusing on online poker tournament player rankings, poker blogs and texas holdem strategy / community, (www.InternetTexasHoldem.com ) aka "ITH". ITH is also the home of the original Free Poker Gift Offer. By using the ITH Poker Stars bonus, Party Poker Bonus, or Full Tilt Poker bonus, players can receive Dimat publications for free, including other poker books, DVDs, and poker chips.

* * * * * *

I'd like to thank Matthew for offering me the opportunity to craft a single, comprehensive tale of the UltimateBet and Absolute Poker scandals, even as events connected to these continue to surprise us nearly every day. There will be at least one dedicated thread for book matters over at the ITH forums, where I'll be hanging out quite a bit in the coming months.

Just Conjecturin', Volume 35: Norwegian Exposure

I've received word that a major new investigative series on the Absolute Poker scandal has dropped today on the Norwegian site dn.no, hone to the online Dagens Naeringsliv Magazine. This piece is written primarily by Goran Skaalmo and includes a ton of stuff never before made public. I have the article in hand and am searching for someone to do a proper Norwegian-to-English translation so I don't miss any of the subtleties. This is the second (and by far more important) of the two major pieces that I knew of in the works regarding Absolute Poker; to the best of my knowledge, Goran and his team have been working this for nearly three months.

This piece offers up some historical information on AP's founders that has never before been published, and it also will go a long way toward explaining properly the true nature of Madeira Fjord, which I touched on briefly last time out. It also appears that there has been a raid on the "business address" associated with one of the law firms (Bull & Co.) connected to Absolute Poker, and I'll be searching for secondary confirmation shortly.

Here's a brief taste, roughly translated, from late in the piece:

"At the Annual General Meeting in March, the shareholders know that there should be an agreement where the two founders of Absolute Poker, Tom and Scott Hilt Tatum IV, still have hidden interests in the company that controls the Absolute Poker. In a draft of the agreement, called "Share surrender agreement", it emerges that the two founders are entitled to benefits and the right to come back as major owners in Madeira Fjord or in the Portuguese subsidiary Avoine, which handles all the money flows from Absolute Poker." -- dn.no

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Pauly's Blow-by-Blow of the Costa Rican Raids

I'm pretty sure that everyone who reads me also reads Dr. Pauly, but just in case, here's his read-it-as-it-happened account of yesterday's raids against the Costa Rican offices of Absolute Poker and PokerStars. The Stars part of the raid was a big mistake by the authorities. A Spanish TV station picked up some video of the raid, including a scene where they knocked down the doors at a private residence, perhaps Olman Rimola's mom's house or something like that. Rimola, a former mayoral candidate for the upscale Ezcazu enclave near San Juan with an interesting past, is an emerging figure of some importance in the overall story.

So many things are happening right now that it's hard to keep up. One should also check out the various Norwegian-language business reports surrounding Madeira Fjord's declaration of bankruptcy. Run them through Google Translate and you'll get a reasonable idea of what's going on, including a couple of scummy lawyers running for cover there as well.

Much more to follow soon.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Just Conjecturin', Volume 34: Behind the IDS Closing -- Olman Rimola vs. Paul Leggett

This one is smoking hot, and points at some of the real reasons that the IDS offices in Costa Rica (the customer support centers for Absolute Poker and UB.com) have closed.

The following is a Spanish-language memo to all the CR workers, followed what can only be described as a mind-bending exchange between Paul Leggett and Olman Rimola, operational head of the Costa Rica IDS office. I will re-sort the latter section into a top-to-bottom, chronological order. It's almost too much too grasp in a single reading. English version is lower down:


* * * * *

Date: Tue, May 3, 2011 11:36 am
To: allcr@idscr.com
Priority: Normal

Estimados compaÒeros:

Desde que el problema legal de AP/UB fue de mi conocimiento, he estado tratando de lograr el pago de las prestaciones de todos los empleados de IDS por parte de las compaÒÌas cuestionadas.

Como ustedes saben, esta operaciÛn la controlan varios extranjeros, algunos de ellos ubicados en IDS y yo no tengo participaciÛn en la toma de decisiones. Me limito a seguir instrucciones.

La semana pasada, como pueden ver en este correo, ejercÌ la presiÛn m·xima para lograr el pago de sus prestaciones laborales, tal y como por derecho les corresponde.

Ellos en ning˙n momento me han depositado el dinero de las prestaciones ni los gastos de planilla de mayo. Yo los perseguirÈ con el fin de lograr este objetivo, para lo cual acudirÈ a las autoridades de los Estados Unidos y de Costa Rica seg˙n corresponda.

Es deseo de esta gente seguir con su cuestionada operaciÛn en otro lado y dejarnos guindando. Al punto en que han liquidado y recontratado a los empleados directos de Brent en Escaz˙ y los de TBT.

TambiÈn pueden leer en el email que les di tiempo hasta hoy a las 12 de la noche para resolver esta situaciÛn. En caso de que insistan en su incumplimiento, los invito a unirse a este movimiento que hoy encabezo para lograr que se haga justicia. Y si tienen alguna prueba que aportar que apoye la acusaciÛn que se est· tramitando, por favor, (redacted) saber para conducirla a la embajada de los Estados Unidos. Sigo en contacto por esta vÌa.

Lamento toda esta situaciÛn y le pido a Dios guÌa y consejo para poder salir delante.

Olman RÌmola

--

Alejandro "hdbets" translated this for English readers as follows:

Dear Colleagues:

Ever since i learned about AP/UB legal issues i have been trying to obtain payment for the labor benefits of all IDS employees from these companies.

As you know this operation is controlled by several foreigners, some of them inside IDS and I don’t have any saying in decision making, I limit myself to following orders.

As you see on this email, last week i put maximum pressure on them, in order to obtain payment for the labor benefits you are entitled by law.

They have NOT deposited the money for these payments nor that for May payroll and expenses. Ill pursue them in order to achieve this, for which I’ll contact both US and Costa Rica authorities as needed.

This people intend to continue with their questionable operation somewhere else and leave us hanging, this has gone to the point of liquidate and then rehire both Brent’s employees at Escazú ( an exclusive neighborhood in San Jose, Costa Rica) and those from TBT.

As you can read on the email I have given them until 12AM tonight to solve this situation, in case they continue to ignore us and breach their contract I invite you to join this movement I’m leading to help us get justice. If you have any evidence to share that could support our case, please let me know so I can see that It gets to the US embassy, ill keep in touch via email.

I deeply regret this whole situation, and i ask God for guidance to be able to get through this.

Olman Rimola



* * * * *

(Date: Sometime last week, possibly very early on 4/29)

> Hi Paul,
>
> The company always has deposited IDS operational expenses.
> The liquidation for all IDS employees is USD$2,750,000.
> This amount has not been deposited yet into IDS bank account.

> If next Tuesday, May 3rd, this amount has not been deposited in IDS bank
> account, I will face all IDS employees and I will explain this situation.
> After that, I will go to the US Embassy and I will contact FBI agents,
> who are right now in Costa Rica, and I will reveal all the information I
> have of Absolute Poker and UltimateBet operations, including full detail of
> original shareholders, corporate structure, processing procedures, all
> related companies, lawyers, executives, bank statements, bank wires,
> emails and instructions I have received, etc.
> FBI will be more than glad in to grant me immunity exchanging this
> information.

> Just a reminder, if anything happens to me, or people close to me, I
> have prepared 3 sets of this information which are in hands of 3 different
> lawyers, with instructions to proceed with US Embassy and Costa Rican
> authorities.

> I feel sorry about ending our relationship like this way, but my IDS
> employees are first.
> Best regards,
>
> Olman RÌmola
>

* * * * *


Hi Olman,

I am shocked by the content of your email as it contradicts everything
that you said in the meeting earlier this week.

Can you please send me the detailed list of IDS liquidations so I can
discuss this with Stuart Gordon? Once I have met with Stuart, I would be
open to another meeting with you.

Paul


* * * * *


---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
Subject: Re: IDS employees liquidations
From: Olman RÌmola Castillo
Date: Fri, April 29, 2011 11:28 am
To: "Paul Leggett"
--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Paul, there is nothing to discuss here, that is the amount.
I know you will continue the operation elsewhere, make it easier for you.
Next Tuesday, I will close IDS; if you send the money the closing down
will be done without any problem. If you do not send the money I will
proceed as I mentioned before.
And if you try to misinform or slander me with my employees, I will
proceed too.
I am very serious this time.
Clock is ticking, don't waste your time...

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Just Conjecturin' Supplemental: Index of Entries

I get a lot of complaints from readers that earlier entries in the Just Conjecturin' Series are hard to find via the archives, so here's a list of links to all the posts. starting with the first way back in September of 2009:

Just Conjecturin', Volume 1

Just Conjecturin', Volume 2: Sebok Signing (w/ Update)

Just Conjecturin', Volume 2.5: Oh, Those UB Hand Histories

Just Conjecturin', Volume 3: The 56% Solution

Just Conjecturin', Volume 4: Inside the Excapsa Ownership Bloc

Just Conjecturin', Volume 5: If a Forrest is Silent, Does That Mean There Aren't Any Trees?

Just Conjecturin', Volume 6: More on Excapsa: The Missing 2.6 Million Forfeited Shares

Three supplemental entries connected to Barry Greenstein's early UB hand histories from the UB cheating days; Barry was among those who played against the cheating accounts:

Barry's HH's Part 1
Barry's HH's Part 2
Barry's HH's Part 3

Just Conjecturin', Volume 7: (Help Me, KevMath, Help Me... with this Numbering Mess)

Just Conjecturin', Volume 8: Make That the 83% Solution

Just Conjecturin', Volume 9: The 'Shut Up and Settle, Dammit' Scene

Just Conjecturin', Volume 10: Defaults and Dividends, Chorus #2

Just Conjecturin', Volume 11: Meanwhile, Over at Absolute Poker, It Seems Scott Tom Really Did It

Just Conjecturin', Volume 12: The Absolute Scandal and the Day Occam Rolled Over in His Grave

Just Conjecturin', Volume 13: Absolute and the Snared Screen Names

Just Conjecturin', Volume 14: More Snared Images from Absolute

Just Conjecturin', Volume 15: The Graycat File

Just Conjecturin', Volume 16: The Curious Case of 'brainwashdodo'

Just Conjecturin', Volume 17: The Real Story of the UltimateBet Refunds

Just Conjecturin', Volume 18: Fakes a-Plenty Among the KGC 31

Just Conjecturin', Volume 19: The Real Problem with the UB Hand Histories

Just Conjecturin', Volume 20: The Carpenter Connection

Just Conjecturin', Volume 21: Graycat the Traveler

Just Conjecturin', Volume 22: It's the Plane, Boss, the Plane!

Just Conjecturin', Volume 23: So What Happened to the Plane?

Just Conjecturin', Volume 24: Tying Together Some Leads

Just Conjecturin', Volume 25: Flotsam, Jetsam and Other Errata

Just Conjecturin', Volume 26: Who or What is Riviera, Ltd.?

Just Conjecturin', Volume 27: Uncovering Brainwashdodo

Just Conjecturin', Volume 28: The Brainwashdodo Correspondence

Just Conjecturin', Volume 29: Inside the Makar Email

Just Conjecturin', Volume 30: Naming Names -- Greg Pierson

Just Conjecturin', Volume 31: Intermezzo

Just Conjecturin', Volume 32: Cereusly Funny Missing Videos

Just Conjecturin', Volume 33: Down Goes Frazier... err, Cereus

I'll try to remember to update this or get a widget or something that keeps a running index near the top of the page, as TenMile noted in the comments.

-- Haley
Haley's Poker Blog

Just Conjecturin', Volume 33: Down Goes Frazier... err, Cereus

An internal memo sent out at Absolute's Costa Rican offices early this morning:

From: The Executive Management Team
Date: Monday, May 2, 2011
Re: Restructuring

As all of you are aware, action was taken by the U.S. Department of Justice on April 15th and we have closed our US-facing operations. We now have to focus our resources on developing our non-US operations and software business. Unfortunately, this also means we must immediately restructure our organization and significantly downsize our operations.

It is a very sad day for all of us, as we have worked so hard to create a truly amazing company that is filled with extraordinary people. We have always been and remain fully committed to the employees and consultants of this business.

TBT employees will be paid full liquidations in accordance with Costa Rican labor laws. Consultants will be paid severance based on length of service. IDS liquidations have been previously funded in full to Olman Rimola.

Some of you will be approached by the business for a new role with a much smaller company that is focused on continuing our non-US operations and software businesses.


Now, the worse news. This comes to me second-hand, but I believe it, even if it must be labeled "conjecture" until we know for sure: There isn't going to be any new company; the letter itself is a ruse to buy time in which the bosses are going to get the remaining funds out of Costa Rica... along with themselves. Next destination is probably Panama, where a duplicate server farm was set up years ago.

I expect that non-US players will be allowed some sort of play-through option for their bankroll balances when the remnants of Cereus emerge under a new name, perhaps late this year or in 2012, and we'll probably all be subjected to some "assets sold to XYZ Company" garbage release down the road, which is likely to be untrue. The US players? I think the plan is to let them go whistle to the DoJ for their money, and that this move also represents Absolute waving a certain middle finger in the DoJ's direction.