There are scores of failed online poker rooms out there, but very few of them have faced criminal charges as a result of their failures. This isn’t the case for a pair of Texas entrepreneurs who tried to launch an online poker room in 2005.
Martin Graham Tyson Sr. and his son; Martin Tyson Jr. are both facing security fraud charges as a result of their involvement with letspoker.com. Tyson and his son ran a Texas-based business named the Panorama Global Realty Group. The group secured funds from 13 different investors which totaled more than $300,000. With these funds they launched the poker website; letspoker.com in 2005.
Shortly after the room was brought online President Bush signed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) into law. According to their attorney at the time; Larry Dowling, the poker room had begun to generate revenue when it was launched and it was showing high prospects. Other sources state that the room had a player base of less than 1,000 players and was barely off the ground. When the UIGEA was signed, letspoker.com was forced to close its virtual doors. It is alleged that at this point the remaining funds from the operation were moved over to other ventures that were controlled by the father/son duo. Some of the funds were also allegedly moved into personal accounts held by the Tysons.
According to the indictment released by the Texas State Securities Board, the charges stem from improper disclosure of the potential risks involved with the website and misuse of the funds. Tyson and his son also failed to inform investors of an ongoing civil lawsuit against their company at the time.
On May 27th both men were arraigned in a Texas courtroom where they each pled not-guilty. They have been released on bond, but each of these men could be facing maximum sentences of life in prison.
This isn’t the first time that the Panorama Group has had trouble with the Texas State Securities Board. The company came under investigation in 2005 and was eventually raided by state officials. After the raid Richard A. Taff, an investment adviser with the firm, was charged with selling securities without a license. Taff is now serving the remainder of a 6 year prison sentence that resulted from these charges (Brownsville Herald).