A poker player who is owed nearly $100,000 by the now-defunct online poker site World Poker Exchange (WPEX) says he plans to confront the site's operator, Haden Ware, over the debt, when Ware appears in court next month for another matter, Gambling 911 can reveal in a world exclusive report!
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The poker player, who doesn't want his name revealed at this time, had the money in his betting account at WPEX when the site went out of business in 2012.
Neither he nor any of the site's hundreds of other customers who had money in WPEX betting accounts got their funds back when the site went under.
WPEX, which opened in 2003, was run by Ware from Antigua and was a sister site of online sports betting site World Sports Exchange (WSEX), which was started a few years earlier by Ware, Steve Schillinger and Jay Cohen and went out of business in 2013.
In 1998, Ware was one of 21 Americans charged by the U.S. Justice Dept. with illegal Internet gambling for running various online sports betting sites.
He had been a fugitive since, but earlier this year, in January, he turned himself in to Federal authorities after 18 years
on the lam.
A few days later he appeared in Manhattan Federal Court in New York before Judge James C. Francis IV and admitted he took sports wagers over the Internet for WSEX back in the 1990s.
Ware is scheduled to be back in that same courtroom on May 9 to be sentenced by the judge on what technically is a guilty plea to a charge of one count of conspiracy.
Federal sentencing guidelines stipulate that the charge carries a mandatory sentence of 6 to 12 months in Federal prison, but Ware nevertheless hopes to avoid any prison time.
That's because in 1998 when Ware was busted, so were 20 others for similar crimes (the so-called "Internet 21").
Some "Internet 21" members still remain fugitives, but many turned themselves in and none of them received any prison time, only fines and/or house arrest.
Cohen was an "Internet 21" member and got prison time but that's because he was the only one to fight the charges in court and he lost.
"Internet 21" members who turned themselves in, however, all did so within days of being busted by the Feds.
That Ware turned himself in 18 years after the fact--including several years hiding out in a converted brewery in Germany--puts him in a different category.
But that's not Ware's main worry right now--a confrontation at the courthouse with an angry poker player owed big bucks right before he is to be sentenced by the judge, is.
"World Poker Exchange owes me a lot of money and I want it," the stiffed poker player told Gambling 911 in an exclusive interview. "Haden Ware ran World Poker Exchange and I hold him personally responsible for debt.
"I'm not asking for anything I'm not entitled to," the poker player continued. "I won the money fair and square playing poker in their Internet poker room and before I could collect it, they went out of business and stiffed me good. It was four years ago but I'm still angry about it. I need the money. I have expenses."
The poker player added that after WPEX folded, he figured he would never see his money again.
But when Ware surfaced from hiding three months ago to surrender to authorites on WSEX-related charges, and the media reported Ware would be in court again in May for sentencing, the poker player realized an opportunity.
"I will be in the courtroom in New York next month when Ware is sentenced," the poker player told Gambling 911. "I'm not looking to make any trouble, that would be crazy to make a scene in a courtroom. I don't want to end up in contempt of court and in jail myself.
"I'm merely going to tell Ware about the money I'm owed by World Poker Exchange, and then ask him when he will be able to pay me back," the poker player continued. "I have documents to prove I was a World Poker Exchange customer and had the money in my account. I just want what I'm owed."
If the poker player does confront Ware in court next month and Judge Davis learns about the debt, it could affect Ware's sentencing.
The judge may not be planning to give Ware any time behind bars, but if he learns that Ware owes money not only to the poker player but numerous other WPEX customers, he might change his mind or at least order Ware to repay all owed monies in order to stay out of prison.
And if the judge is leaning towards a prison term for Ware, this fiasco could increase the sentence.
But, if Ware wants to make a deal before his sentencing hearing is held and pay the poker player a portion of the money owed, say 50 cents on the dollar, the poker player told Gambling 911 that he would consider the matter resolved and would not need to show up in court next month to confront Ware.
However, if Ware chooses to make such a deal, he would open himself up to demands from everyone else owed money by WPEX, and perhaps WSEX too, which when it folded also stiffed numerous bettors.
Ware thought by turning himself in, it would be the end of his problems.
It just might have created some additional ones.
By Tom Somach
Gambling 911 Staff Writer