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Ex-Utah banker gets 3-month sentence in poker case

Published June 27, 2012 9:31 pm

Indictment • John Campos steered online gambling payments to SunFirst.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A federal judge in New York on Wednesday sentenced a former St. George bank officer to three months in prison for his role in getting the bank to process payments for online poker companies.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan said John Campos did not make much money personally from the deal but still engaged in a greed-driven crime, The Associated Press reported.

Campos pleaded guilty in March to a single misdemeanor charge of causing a bank insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to process illegal gambling transactions. He had been facing five felony counts as part of an indictment handed up in April in New York that charged 11 people with violating laws against the processing of online gambling payments, including the founders of the three largest Internet poker companies, Absolute Poker, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.

Campos did not speak during the sentencing hearing. His attorney did not return a later phone call and email seeking comment.

But a defense memo to the court prior to sentencing said that although Campos accepted "full responsibility" for his conduct, he played only a "minor role" in the case.

"Mr. Campos was by far the least culpable defendant charged in the indictment," said the memo.

Campos had no role in the bank fraud conspiracy that others were charged with, it said in asking for a sentence that did not include any prison time. The memo also said other SunFirst bank officers and board members approved the deal that resulted in the bank processing $200 million in payments.

Campos, vice chairman of the board and a significant stockholder, was tasked by SunFirst officers with finding new capital demanded by federal regulators after the bank dished out too many real estate loans during the housing boom and then saw losses after the market began to sour in 2007.

Campos said in 2009 he was approached by St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson about processing poker payments. Johnson's partner in the deal, Las Vegas businessman Chad Elie, was indicted in the case and also pleaded guilty, but Johnson was not charged.

In a separate sentencing memo, federal prosecutors in New York sparred with Campos over whether his deal with Johnson included a $10 million investment in the bank. They also pointed to an email in which the bank's attorney had warned him that the bank could be subject to prosecution for processing poker payments.

"Campos responded by email that the bank's lawyer was 'up to his old tricks again, being a wet blanket' and proceeded to finalize the deal," the memo says.

Members of the bank's board also told prosecutors they were not aware of the payments until after they began, it says.

Johnson is facing a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit over his operation of another business that sold various materials over the Internet and a related criminal case in federal court in Salt Lake City. A prosecutor has said he expects Johnson to face new charges as a result of an ongoing investigation.

He denies wrongdoing.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

tharvey@sltrib.com

Twitter: @TomHarveySltrib