Sports betting touts and tout services have a way of finding their way into the news for all of the wrong reasons. They’re all hype, all garbage, and yet most find a way to stand just inside the borders of legality. Not so, allegedly, for New York native and current Florida resident Cory Zeidman, who also happens to be a prior WSOP bracelet winner in addition to his long-running sports-betting interests.
Zeidman was arrested last month and formally arraigned this week on two felony charges, one of mail fraud/wire fraud, and the other of money laundering, in connection with his operation of numerous sports-betting tout services, some of which were even advertised on sports-themed radio networks. He pled not guilty on Thursday to the charges. If found guilty, he could face prison time, but the financial forfeiture the Department of Justice (DOJ) seeks is the eye-opener here. They allege that Zeidman has profited by at least $25 million through the various tout operations he’s run since 2004.
So, what has Zeidman in particularly hot legal water amid an industry that’s such horseshit from the start? According to the DOJ, it’s the claims by Zeidman, through his services and under fictitious names, that those services had special “inside access” to information that would impact the outcome of games. Though not specified in a DOJ statement, such information could include such things as injuries that weren’t formally reported through league protocols.
Except, that inside information never existed at all. According to an unindicted “Co-conspirator #1” who appears to have turned state’s evidence, the supposed insider tips were solely made up for the purpose of inducing action from willing suckers. That makes the tips fraudulent, and that’s why the DOJ pounced. The initial case was filed in the Eastern District of New York, which covers Long Island. A secondary case was filed a week later in the Southern District of Florida, where Zeidman spends most of his time, though that case was quickly rolled into the New York indictment.
For reasons unknown, Zeidman sent a statement to PokerNews regarding his filing of the not-guilty pleas on Thursday. “In the words of Nietzsche,” he wrote, “‘Everything the state says is a lie and everything it has it has stolen.’ They took all my money and they seem upset that I won’t plead to things I haven’t done. I’ve been advised by my council to not get into details but I anxiously await my day in court. I have worked in the sports handicapping industry for the past 40 years starting with ‘professor picks.’ Trade secret — he wasn’t a real professor. I want to thank the outpouring of positive words in support from my close friends and family who know me best as an individual with the highest level of morals and integrity.”
Admitting to a “trade secret” that is itself a lie to customers, even if a somewhat harmless one, hardly seems congruent to the claim of “the highest levels of morals and integrity.” But when your entire business revolves around running a sharper con than the next guy, the words just don’t seem to matter.
Zeidman’s assets already targeted for forfeiture
The feds are trying to claw back as many assets as they can to satisfy what they expect will be a judgment of more than $25 million against Zeidman. In a series of seizures that began in mid-March, the DOJ went after numerous bank accounts belonging to Zeidman, his business entities and his presumed associates. Four of the accounts that have been seized are corporate entities (Phoenix Advisory Services, Top Ticket Inc., All Your Consulting Needs, and Edge Global Consulting). The entire group of businesses controlled by Zeidman and others is referred to by prosecutors as the “Phoenix Organization”.
Two more of the seized accounts are individual bank accounts in Zeidman’s name, while 10 more accounts are in the names of individual or joint accounts of presumed associates or friends of Zeidman’s. The names on those accounts include Robert and Sophia Bornschein, and Hanon and Mary Ellen Dorfman. Collectively, on or around March 11, around $750,000 in bank deposits was seized.
Authorities are also seeking seizure of three properties Zeidman owns, in Boca Raton and West Palm Beach, Florida, and in Levittown, New York. All these assets, and others if they are identified, are in addition to the $25 million the DOJ also seeks.
In a statement issued in May by the Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, prosecutors made their claims public. “The defendant was the leader of an organization that placed national radio advertisements to lure victims to retain the organization for sports betting advice,” the DOJ alleges. “The victims were led to believe that the organization had privileged information that made betting on sporting events a no-risk proposition. Victims were required to pay a fee to obtain this information which, unbeknownst to them, was either fictitious or obtained from an internet search by defendant and his co-conspirators. Many victims lost their life savings.”
The complaint asserts that Zeidman’s group honed in on the most addicted gamblers with the “inside information” angle. “As alleged, Zeidman defrauded his victims, stole their life savings and persuaded them to drain their retirement accounts to invest in his bogus sports betting group, all so he could spend it on international vacations, a multi-million dollar residence and poker tournaments,” stated EDNY United States Attorney Breon Peace. “Today’s indictment serves as a reminder to all of us to be wary of so-called investment opportunities that purport to have inside information, as they are really a gamble not worth taking.”
2012 bracelet win tops Zeidman’s poker resume
Zeidman has been one of those high-profile dabblers in the poker world, popping up here and there over the past couple of decades. His WSOP bracelet win, in 2012, in a $1,500 Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo event, was for more than $201,000 and accounts for a goodly chunk of his nearly $700,000 in recorded tournament winnings.
He also played in a 2009 episode of “Poker After Dark”, along with Todd Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, Phil Gordon, Gabe Kaplan, and David Grey. The episode was called “Speak Your Mind”, a reference to the talkiness of most of those playing in the $120,000 winner-take-all SNG. Zeidman is known as a very brash and talkative player, even described as flaky by a couple of people who have played him.
One of Zeidman’s most famous moments in poker, however, came in 2005, when he laid a televised two-out river for the ages on Jennifer Harman in the WSOP Main Event:
Zeidman has waived his right to a speedy trial, with his next hearing in the case coming on June 24. He won’t be in attendance at the 2022 WSOP, since he’s out on $100,000 bond as of this report, is limited to travel in and between southern Florida and New York, and is under pre-trial GPS monitoring. It’ll be interested to see if Zeidman will be judged to have crossed the line into outright fraud with his marketing in the highly shady sports-betting tout industry.
Featured image source: WSOP.com