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Top poker players accused of online 'Ponzi scheme'

The Dept. of Justice claims Full Tilt Poker operated as a Ponzi scheme.  CNBC's Darren Rovell reports.

 The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday accused poker superstars Christopher “Jesus” Ferguson, Howard “The Professor” Lederer and other executives of using a poker website to operate a Ponzi scheme that defrauded players out of $300 million, The Wall Street Journal reports.

"Full Tilt was not a legitimate poker company, but a global Ponzi scheme," said Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, in a statement. A Ponzi scheme, named after famed swindler Charles Ponzi, is a pyramid scam in which supposed profits are paid out to early investors through funds from later investors.

In the statement, Bharara said Full Tilt "cheated and abused its own players to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars." It went on to say that "insiders lined their own pockets with funds picked from the pockets of their most loyal customers while blithely lying to both players and the public alike about the safety and security of the money deposited with the company."

On Tuesday, Bharara's office filed a motion to amend an earlier civil complaint to allege that Ferguson, Lederer and two other directors for the website operated a scam that allowed the company to pay out $444 million to themselves and other owners, which included famous poker players, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Read the full statement from the United States Attorney's office.