One of the most interesting sections of James Leighton’s new book, Alligator Blood, is Daniel Tzvetkoff’s tale of how Intabill’s poker processing business was stolen from underneath him, leading to the firm’s immediate collapse in May of 2009.
Several of the later chapters of Alligator Blood are concerned with how Tzvetkoff and Intabill became intertwined with a seedy pack of characters involved in a US-based payday-loan operation, primarily Curtis Pope, John Scott Clark and Jeff Nelson and a firm called Trendsact. Chad Elie, a later-day payment processor who was also a business associate of the three, has alleged that all three became government informants after being arrested for their roles in various illegal business activities, not solely restricted to online poker matters.
We’ll return to the tale of Clark, Pope and Nelson in this series’ next installment, but for now it’s important to shine more light until the tale of Intabill’s connection with Trendsact, which in turn led to Intabill’s collapse. According to Tzvetkoff’s version of the tale, as relayed in Alligator Blood, he placed most of Intabill’s liquid assets (poker processing proceeds) in the hands of Clark, Pope, Nelson and Trendsact, which ran the operation under the Hugo Payday Loans umbrella, which was responsible for much of the actual processing, due to the US group’s direct access to live ACH processing… in other words, the coveted direct and instantaneous pipeline into the US banking system.
Intabill, with Tzvetkoff’s willingness, had a chunk of the payday-loan business as well, along with an agreement to withdraw all needed assets on demand. It appears that despite the cameraderie that Tzvetkoff claimed to feel with Pope, in particular, Pope and his own associates had no intention of honoring that deal once the many millions involved with the poker processing for Stars and others came under their control.
Meanwhile, Intabill and Tzvetkoff overspent in a grandiose manner, such as Tzvetkoff’s $28 million purchase of the largest property on Melbourne’s elite Gold Coast. Adding in the unconfirmed by implied cooking of the books, Intabill turned out to be a cash-strapped entity with tens of millions in reconciliations due to PokerStars, Full Tilt and other firms.
To make matters even worse, the stupidly inexperienced Tzvetkoff had moved the most important operations under the Trendsact umbrella. The US boys had the coveted ACH processing links, and Intabill itself became more and more of a dead weight, instead of actively contributing any processing solutions.
As recounted in Alligator Blood, Tzvetkoff and Sciacca demanded that Pope, Clark and Nelson honor the terms of their deal and allow Intabill to withdraw assets to pay down its debts. The US boys cannily refused, and went behind Intabill’s back to cut Intabill out of the process. Pope and Clark negotiated directly with PokerStars boss Isai Scheinberg, and when Sciacca traveled to the US to demand Trendsact comply with their earlier deal, the Trendsact boys let Sciacca hang, threatening him with allowing the poker firms to put Intabill out of business if they didn’t sign over their portion of the “Intabill” processing and cut themselves clear.
According to the story Leighton relates, a weepy and shaky Sciacca complied, and Intabill collapsed within days.
There is one additional, somewhat Machiavellian wrinkle that Leighton overlooked. Given that the deal struck behind the scenes was between PokerStars and Trendsact and that Full Tilt soon went ahead with its own fruitless $52 million lawsuit against Intabill, Tzvetkoff and Sciacca, it is possible that Scheinberg demanded some form of payment from the assets being held at Trendsact in addition for going along with Pope’s ruthless doublecross.
Not only would such a secondary deal have lowered Stars’ exposure in case the new operation exploded, it could also have put a significant crimp into Full Tilt’s cash flow. Full Tilt was #2 in the US-facing market at the time and was #1 Stars’ chief rival. The two firms weren’t quite the bitter enemies that PokerStars and PartyGaming have long been, but Stars and Tilt weren’t exactly friendly, either. For Stars to be able to pull out instant cash, say $10 or $20 million, at the possible expense of Full Tilt probably wasn’t lost on Scheinberg. Full Tilt, for its part, was caught unaware of the business blunders that Tzvetkoff made that caused the company’s collapse.
Yes, Tzvetkoff was robbed, but as to how much, that’s anyone’s guess. It’s a safe bet that he managed to squirrel away some considerable profits from his Intabill processing, shielding them from the forfeiture actions that claimed most of his fleeting millions. Yet the penultimate chapter of Alligator Blood finds Tzvetkoff and his wife relaxing at a private Bali resort — at a cost of $2,000 a night or therebaouts — following his stint as a cooperating witness for the US government, which helped the SDNY office of Preet Bharara build its extensive “Black Friday” case.
Leighton doesn’t really buy the notion that Tzvetkoff emerged from the poker business as penniless as he claims; nor should anyone else. But before being arrested in Las Vegas and being converted into a confidential witness by the threat of 75 years in prison, Tzvetkoff whined a bit in public consumer forums about the thieves at Trendsact.
Of all things, Daniel Tzevtkoff was reduced to writing cheap consumer complaints at Rip Off Report and other sites. According to his RipOffReport.com bleat, “Curtis Pope and Scott Clark of Quasar/ Trendsact has stolen $33 million dollars from IntaBill / Poker Stars.”
Later on, the same complaint states, “I am doing this solely to inform the public because a close friend of mine was taken by Curtis Pope of Trendsact/ Quasar for more than $30 million dollars on a processing deal.”
Don’t believe the “close friend” spew. This was Tzvetkoff. The piece was signed by Baller, Brisbane, Australia, and Tzvetkoff fancied himself exactly that, even having “Baller” as the license plate on one of his expensive sports cars.
By the date of this posting, July 16, 2009, or about two months after Intabill’s collapse, the cameraderie between Tzvetkoff and Pope had long vanished. This piece instead details the criminal background of Pope and his associates and attempts to detail many of Pope’s shady business relationships.
What’s funny is that someone from the Curtis Pope / Trendsact camp must have encountered Tzvetkoff’s smear, and then taken to a different consumer complaints forum, and a thread bashing false complaints on Rip Off Report, to deny Tzvetkoff’s smear. In the comments section of a Moz.com post, this curious blurb appears:
I have a business friend that has been adversely affected by ripoffreports from a partner who lied. Daniel Tzvetkoff is a well-known sham businessman who has been has several criminal allegations against him and he is still able to post false ripoff reports. See:
When people like this are able to post reports to the world then it really puts the credibility of sites like ripoffreport.com in question and makes us all vulnerable to damaging, unsupported rantings.
The best hunch is that they were all crooks. But while Daniel Tzvetkoff was indeed a sham businessman, the people behind Trendsact were every bit that, and worse. Next installment, a look at some of the Trendsact principles, along with a listing of some arrests and processing seizures that went largely unreported in the poker press.
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