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NEW YORK (Reuters) - One of several men accused of helping online poker websites dodge U.S. gambling laws lived in Central America for years to avoid a telemarketing fraud charge and was preparing to flee to Thailand before his arrest, a U.S. prosecutor said on Wednesday.
A magistrate judge in New York denied bail for Ira Rubin, a so-called "payment processor." His indictment was announced in April, when the U.S. government seized the Internet domain names of the three largest Internet poker companies: Absolute Poker, Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars.
Rubin's lawyer, Stuart Meissner, told the court that his client wanted to stay in the United States and face charges including conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud that could put him in prison for 30 years if he is convicted.
"This entire case is a little bit of overkill," Meissner told reporters after Rubin's bail hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge James Cott.
"This is the U.S. war on gambling as opposed to the U.S. war on terrorism. I don't think this is a good use of taxpayer resources."
Online gambling has been illegal in the United States since 2006. However, some U.S. lawmakers have talked recently about legalizing Internet gambling and regulating it.
Prosecutors accused the companies and the people they hired of tricking regulators and banks into illegally processing $3 billion in payments. Last month, one of the indicted "payment processors" pleaded guilty in the same court.
On Wednesday, prosecutor Arlo Devlin-Brown told the judge that Rubin, a 53-year-old U.S. citizen, fled to Costa Rica from Florida in December 2006 after being served with civil charges in a telemarketing fraud and had lived there ever since.
The judge said there were "countless reasons" why he was not convinced Rubin could be granted bail.
Devlin-Brown said that when the charges in the online poker case were announced two months ago, "that same day he chartered a plane to Guatemala from Costa Rica ... then intended to go to Thailand." Rubin was arrested in Guatemala and taken to the United States.
The prosecutor said Rubin told a fellow inmate in jail that he had wanted to obtain a fake passport in Guatemala. Rubin's lawyer said the trip to Guatemala was previously planned.
The government's evidence against Rubin was gathered from several people, including informants, emails and recorded phone conversations, Devlin-Brown said. He said Rubin processed hundreds of millions of dollars for the poker companies.
Rubin had access to accounts in Panama, Cyprus and the Philippines and it was difficult to determine his actual worth, the government said.
The case is USA v Tzvetkoff et al, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 10-00336.
Editing by Steve Orlofsky