Payment Processor Sues Former Attorney for Malpractice from Prison Cell

Former online poker payment processor Chad Elie has filed a lawsuit in Las Vegas against one of his former attorneys, Jeff Ifrah, claiming that Ifrah misled him about documentation that would have, if known by Elie, kept him from being imprisoned.

According to the 20 page complaint, Elie alleges that Ifrah failed to disclose to his client legal opinions that processing online poker was illegal in the U.S. in order for Ifrah to continue to collect commissions on the processing that Elie was handling for his clients. The complaint also alleges that Ifrah had a clear conflict of interest to represent Elie, while representing poker companies Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars and that he put the interests of those companies ahead of Elie’s.  The complaint further alleges that Ifrah provided testimony against Elie, to the U.S. Attorneys Office, in the investigation which resulted in the indictments unsealed on Black Friday in order to keep from being indicted himself.

There are no quotes from Elie himself, or citings from specific documents to corroborate any of the allegations in the complaint.

Diamond Flush Poker having met with Elie in the past, published an interview held with Elie in November 2012.  None of these allegations were made at that time, even though Elie had had benefit of tens of thousands of pages of discovery for more than a year prior. In fact, in conversations with this author, Elie has expressed nothing but high regard for Ifrah and the support he had received from him, and this sentiment was repeated right up until the time he was incarcerated in late January 2013. He would have had benefit of all discovery in the case against him prior to this time, but made no comments about Ifrah’s alleged cooperation with the government against Elie or others.

Elie also advised this author that he had met Ifrah in 2009 when Ifrah was suing him, on behalf of PokerStars, for money that Elie “stole” from another payment processor, Intabill. Elie claimed to have taken more than $ 4 million from Intabill’s bank accounts for himself because he was owed that much from his fellow processor, but had not been paid.  That $ 4 million, along with many millions more, had been stolen by Intabill from PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker and Elie was being sued for the recovery of that money.  Elie eventually settled the case, agreeing to return approximately 50% of that money, more than $ 2 million to PokerStars. Sources have told Diamond Flush Poker that this repayment of funds from Elie came in large part via $ 100,000. monthly installments, payment being made to Ifrah Law into client PokerStars account.  Since the complaint does not address this issue, it remains unclear whether this is the same $ 100,000. alleged to have been paid to Ifrah as “commissions”.

From immediately following his indictment in 2011, until he changed his plea in April 2012, Elie prepared for trial in New York to fight the allegations against him.  As part of that preparation, his criminal defense team filed numerous motions with the court.  Included in those motions were the various legal opinions collected by Elie prior to his arrest, including the legal opinion referred to in this complaint, that alleges he had no knowledge of until after he was arrested.

Elie ultimately decided to plead guilty to felonies that landed him a five month prison term.  During his allocutions before Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York, he was specifically asked by Kaplan to confirm that by Elie admitting to having committed bank fraud and conspiracy charges that he did not in any way rely on any “advice of counsel” defense for his actions.  Kaplan went so far as to reinforce the question multiple times.  Elie answered “no”, he had not acted on advice of counsel and that he committed the acts with criminal intent.

Diamond Flush Poker received the following statement from Jeff Ifrah regarding the complaint:

“While we do not relish being adversarial with a former client, at the appropriate time we will demonstrate that Mr. Elie’s claims are factually incorrect and legally meritless.  It is more than regrettable that he would strike out at others and seek to blame them for his situation.  He is, after all,  presently in federal prison for crimes he admitted to.  Our further response to his irresponsible accusations will take place in a courtroom.”

The complaint was filed by Las Vegas Family Law Attorney Sigal Chattah.  She could not be reached for comment before publication time.

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