Spitzer made a name for himself in New York fighting organized crime rings, like the prostitution ring he is accused of soliciting, while working in the Manhattan district attorney's office.
For eight years before becoming the governor, Spitzer was attorney general for the state of New York. While in office he won national recognition for landmark cases protecting investors, consumers, the environment and more. He took up civil actions and criminal prosecutions relating to corporate white-collar crime, securities fraud, Internet fraud and more.
Through his work as attorney general, Spitzer also became a very vocal opponent of online gambling. In 2002, Spitzer threatened banks involved with online gambling transactions with prosecution.
One result was that Citibank, one of the United States' leading credit card issuers, made an agreement with the attorney general's office to no longer process transactions with online casinos and other Internet gambling operations.
"Americans now waste $4 billion a year on this pernicious form of gambling," Spitzer said in a press release after the deal was made. "With this agreement, we will cut off an unlimited line of credit that was a jackpot for illegal offshore casinos."
Other law enforcement actions in the past had been directed at the online gambling entities. Spitzer's action was the first to target financial entities that process gambling transactions.
Noting that it is often difficult to prosecute online gambling companies operating in violation of New York and U.S. law, Spitzer said in the press release it's essential that financial entities such as banks and credit card companies do everything in their power to avoid facilitating "these illegal and harmful transactions."
In 2006, Spitzer ran for governor of New York based on a reform platform, promising to "change the ethic of Albany."
After winning the election, Governor Spitzer said in his inaugural address, "Every policy, every action and every decision we make in this administration will further two overarching objectives: We must transform our government so that it is as ethical and wise as all of New York, and we must rebuild our economy so that it is ready to compete on the global stage in the next century."
Spitzer's ethical house of cards came crashing down around him this week, however, when The New York Times reported he has patronized a high-class prostitution service called Emperors Club VIP, based in New Jersey, and that he met for more than two hours with a $1,000-an-hour call girl at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington D.C.
The governor's liaisons with prostitutes were discovered after an investigation was initiated into his monetary affairs when his bank reported suspicious transactions to the IRS as required by the Bank Secrecy Act.
According to Newsday, Spitzer split up more than $10,000 he wanted to transfer to an organization that turned out to be a front for the prostitution ring. Federal law requires the reporting of any transfer of $10,000 or more, so Spitzer split up the transfers.
He then tried to have his name taken off the wire transfers, which the bank refused to do, contending it would be improper and that the wires were already out anyway.
The bank reported the transactions as potentially suspicious activity, and the IRS launched an investigation, initially believing they would find that Spitzer was the victim of extortion or perhaps find an imposter.
The case was later handed to the FBI for it to investigate possible political corruption, but FBI investigators linked the money transfers to the prostitution ring instead. Federal prosecutors charged four people operating the Emperors Club VIP last week, before the announcement of Spitzer's involvement.
When his involvement in the prostitution ring first came to light, Spitzer made a public apology for his conduct without ever mentioning the specifics of the scandal or giving any indication that he would resign.
Since then, officials across the state of New York have been calling for the governor to resign or be impeached because of his actions. As a result, Spitzer announced his resignation today, effective Monday (March 17), to give the lieutenant governor time to make a smooth transition.
"Over the course of my public life, I have insisted, I believe correctly, that people, regardless of their position or power, take responsibility for their conduct. I can and will ask no less of myself," said Spitzer. "For this reason, I am resigning from the Office of Governor."
His resignation doesn't put a stop to the controversy. There is still the possibility that Spitzer could face criminal charges for his actions, and he could also face disbarment.
Congressman calls for details of WTO internet gambling settlement
In a move that could affect internet gambling, Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) asked the U.S. Trade Representative to disclose trade concessions made to foreign trading partners without Congressional approval, according to a press release issued by the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative. The move means ��...full article
In a move that could affect internet gambling, Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) asked the U.S. Trade Representative to disclose trade concessions made to foreign trading partners without Congressional approval, according to a press release issued by the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative.
The move means Congressional intervention may be on the horizon regarding internet gambling, perhaps voiding commitments the USTR gave to the European Union, among others. Previously, the U.S. had policies to keep European and other foreign internet gambling ventures out of the United States.
According to the release:
In a letter circulated to all members of Congress last week, DeFazio encouraged his colleagues to join him in calling for the USTR to provide a copy of the concession agreement between the United States and the European Union. The USTR had recently rejected a Freedom of Information Act request for the same document, claiming the agreement was classified for national security reasons. “There is a concern that the USTR may have been ambitious in its use of a ‘national security’ classification to avoid any publicity of which new business sectors are to be subject to the GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services) treaty,” said DeFazio’s March 6 letter.
Congressman DeFazio’s request is an indication that the Administration’s unilateral action to attempt to resolve the WTO Internet gambling dispute is in jeopardy. “Congress should have been consulted before the US agreed to these trade concessions,” said Jeffrey Sandman, spokesperson for the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative. “We hope that Mr. DeFazio’s colleagues will join him in demanding more transparency, communication, and consultation from the Administration on Internet gambling. A non-discriminatory market for Internet gambling in the United States will restore integrity to the international trading system.”
The request is the latest in a series of actions regarding U.S. policy toward foreign gambling interests.
According to the release, last year, Antigua successfully challenged the regulation of Internet gambling in the United States with the World Trade Organization. The European Union announced earlier this week that it will open an investigation into a possible international trade violation by the US on this issue.
Legislation introduced by Representative Barney Frank (D-MA), the Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act (H.R. 2046), if passed would change U.S. policy on Internet gambling — allowing regulation — and it would resolve the international trade dispute.
Montel Williams charity tourney Thursday
The pro players expected to attend include Robert Daily, Freddy Deeb, Annie Duke, Ken Einiger, Barbara Enright, Scott Fischman, Jamie Gold, Russ Hamilton, Susie Isaacs, Chip Jett, Karina Jett, Mary Jones, Victor Ramdin, Joseph Reitman, Marsha Waggoner and Robert Williamson III.
Enright, Isaacs and Waggoner are three of the four inaugural inductees into the Women in Poker Hall of Fame this year. Each of them has a successful history in poker, including Enright's three WSOP bracelet wins along with Isaac's two WSOP bracelets.
They aren't the only bracelet holders in the group either. Duke has one on her poker resume, while Deeb picked up his second in the 2007 WSOP. Fischman has two as well, and Mary Jones and Robert Williamson III each add one to the mix.
Gold adds some WSOP history to the charity event as well, being the 2006 WSOP Main Event Champion. Nor is he the only champion in the mix: Ramdin brings with him a World Poker Tour win.
Joining the pros at the poker tables will be Goumba Johnny, who is a radio host, comedian, writer and actor; Norby Walters, host of the famed "Night of 100 Stars" Oscar Party as well as the biggest poker game in Tinseltown; and Montel Williams.
Williams is a talk show host, actor and author. He was diagnosed with MS in 1999 and has pledged to use his celebrity to help find a cure.
To follow through on his pledge he set up the Montel Williams MS Foundation. All the proceeds from Thursday's charity poker tournament and gala will benefit the foundation.
Since its inception, the Montel Williams MS Foundation has raised more than $1 million for research. Currently 100% of the public's donations go directly to research centers chosen by the foundation.
Online gamblers target of scammers
According to a TechRadar.com article, criminals are using Trojans to steal millions from online poker players.
A Trojan, or Trojan horse, is a program that doesn't replicate but causes damage or compromises the security of a computer. They can be sent via e-mails or downloaded from Web sites or with other programs.
Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at the security software company F-Secure, told TechRadar.com of a situation where an online poker player had a Trojan on his computer that allowed the person who had sent it to secretly take a screenshot of the player's screen.
"We were just investigating a case where a professional online poker player was attacked by someone he would play against regularly online," said Hypponen in the TechRadar.com article. "All of a sudden he started losing. He would regularly lose even when he had a great hand - pocket aces for example. If he had an unbeatable hand, the other players would simply fold. And when he tried to bluff, he would lose."
Hypponen said the player lost hundreds of thousands of euros over the course of a few weeks before F-Secure looked into the matter.
What they found was that one of the other players he was regularly playing against had sent him a tool to help optimize his poker player, but the tool also included a Trojan. That player used it take a screenshot of the pro's screen while they were playing together and see the hole cards he was holding.
Hypponen said it was a clever attack because instead of outright stealing the player's account, he was instead conning the player out of his money, which would take longer for a person to figure out.
"I don't think many online poker players realize that those kind[s] of attacks are being done," Hypponen said.
There are ways for players to better protect themselves from Trojans or other viruses. Along with downloading a good anti-virus program, McAfee offers the following security tips:
- Do not open e-mail attachments from an unknown, suspicious or untrustworthy source.
- Do not open an e-mail attachment unless you know what it is, even if it appears to come from a friend or someone you know. Some viruses replicate themselves and spread via e-mail.
- Do not open any e-mail attachments if the subject line is questionable. If you feel that the attachment may be important to you, always save the file to your hard drive before you open it.
- Delete chain e-mails and other spam from your inbox. It's best not to forward or reply to messages like these.
- Exercise caution when downloading files from the Internet. Make sure that the Web site is legitimate and reputable. Verify that an anti-virus program has checked the files on the download site.
- Avoid downloads from non-Web sources altogether. The chances of downloading infected software from Usenet groups, IRC channels, instant messaging clients or P2P is very high.
- Update your anti-virus software often. Threats are on the increase, and they are constantly evolving. Hundreds of viruses are discovered each month.
- Back up your files frequently. If a virus infects your files, at least you can replace them with your backup copy. It's a good idea to store your backup files (on CDs or flash drives) in another secure physical location away from your computer.
- Update your operating system, Web browser and e-mail program on a regular basis.
- Do not open messages or click on links from unknown users in your instant messaging program.
Use a personal firewall. A hardware firewall that sits between your DSL router or cable modem will protect you from inbound attacks. It's a must for broadband connections. A software firewall runs on your PC and can protect you from both inbound and outbound attacks.
Check your accounts and credit reports regularly. Identity thieves can begin using your personal information to open accounts and purchase goods within minutes of obtaining that data. Check your bank account and credit card statements frequently. That way, if you discover that your personal information has been compromised, you can alert credit companies and banks immediately, so they can close your accounts.
Trojans and viruses aren't the only thing online gamblers should worry about. According to a story in The Register, security company Symantec recently noticed an increase in phishing attacks against online gamblers as well.
Scammers have found it easier to trick online gamblers into providing them with the log-in credentials to their gaming accounts where they can cash in rather than trying to get someone's bank account information.
One scenario mentioned in a PortalIT.net story is that phishers could steal players' e-mail information and then forward them spoofed e-mails claiming that the player has money in his account or a problem with his account. The message then links to a spoofed Web page that requests the user to enter his online account information for the gambling site.
That information can then be used to steal the user's credit card information and any cash that's in their account.
As with Trojans and viruses, there are ways for people to protect themselves from phishing scams as well. The National Fraud Information Center (www.fraud.org) offers the following tips:
- Watch out for "phishy" e-mails. The most common form of phishing is e-mails pretending to be from a legitimate retailer, bank, organization or government agency. The sender asks to "confirm" your personal information for some made-up reason: your account is about to be closed, an order for something has been placed in your name or your information has been lost because of a computer problem.
- Don't click on links within e-mails that ask for your personal information. Fraudsters use these links to lure people to phony Web sites that looks just like the real sites of the company, organization, or agency they're impersonating.
- Beware of "pharming." In this latest version of online ID theft, a virus or malicious program is secretly planted in your computer and hijacks your Web browser. When you type in the address of a legitimate Web site, you're taken to a fake copy of the site without realizing it. Any personal information you provide at the phony site, such as your password or account number, can be stolen and fraudulently used.
- Never enter your personal information in a pop-up screen. Sometimes a phisher will direct you to a real company, organization or agency's Web site, but then an unauthorized pop-up screen created by the scammer will appear, with blanks in which to provide your personal information.
- Know that phishing can also happen by phone. You may get a call from someone pretending to be from a company or government agency, making the same kinds of false claims and asking for your personal information.
- If someone contacts you and says you've been a victim of fraud, verify the person's identity before you provide any personal information.
- Job seekers should also be careful. Some phishers target people who list themselves on job search sites. Pretending to be potential employers, they ask for your social security number and other personal information.
- Be suspicious if someone contacts you unexpectedly and asks for your personal information. If you're contacted out of the blue and asked for your personal information, it's a warning sign that something is "phishy." Legitimate companies and agencies don't operate that way.
If you have been hooked by a phisher or realize that important personal information may have been stolen if your computer is compromised by a Trojan, act immediately. Notify the companies with whom you have accounts that were compromised right away.
It's also important to report phishing, whether you fall for it or not. Tell the company or agency that the phisher was impersonating. You can also report the problem to law enforcement agencies through NCL's Fraud Center. The information you provide helps to stop identity theft.