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Poker pariah Howard Lederer returns to WSOP

Howard Lederer, whose involvement in the Full Tilt Poker scandal five years ago turned him into a poker pariah, ended his self-imposed banishment Saturday night.

Lederer registered for the World Series of Poker’s $10,000 buy-in 2-7 Draw Lowball Championship at the Rio Convention Center and follows Chris “Jesus” Ferguson in returning to the tournament poker scene this summer.

Lederer, a founder and director of Full Tilt Poker, was part of a $42.5 million civil lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2011 that alleged the online gambling company was a Ponzi scheme and diverted funds from gamblers into their own pockets.

Lederer settled the case in 2012 and agreed to forfeit more than $2.5 million in cash and assets.

As part of the settlement, Lederer did not admit to any wrongdoing in the case, which stemmed from the federal government’s crackdown on illegal internet poker operations in April 2011. He also sidestepped much of the blame for the controversy during a seven-part interview with PokerNews.com in 2012, which alienated him from most of the poker community.

But Lederer issued a statement May 19 that paved the way for his return to tournament poker. Lederer apologized “to everyone in the poker community, especially to all the players who had money on Full Tilt Poker on April 15, 2011,” and took “full responsibility for Full Tilt’s failure to protect player deposits leading up to Black Friday.”

Lederer declined to comment Saturday, and told PokerNews, “I’ve made my statement.”

Ferguson, who was also named in the civil case, re-emerged at the WSOP on June 4 after a six-year absence. He has yet to make a public statement on his involvement in the Full Tilt Poker scandal.

Lederer, nicknamed “The Professor,” is a two-time WSOP bracelet winner with more than $6.4 million in career live tournament earnings, according to Global Poker Index’s Hendon Mob Poker Database.

Lederer has not played at the World Series of Poker since 2010 and last appeared at a tournament when he played in the Aussie Millions in 2011.

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