Author’s note: The following report includes graphic language and imagery. The murder-for-hire allegations contained here are based on an FBI agent’s probable cause affidavit and are not presented by PokerOrg as facts of the case.
One of the strangest ongoing tales ever to leave its mark on the online-poker world re-emerged in another bizarre episode on Wednesday with the arrest of Fereidoun “Fred” Khalilian.
Khalilian, the man behind the failed efforts to launch PokerTribes.com and PokerTribe.com, was charged with orchestrating a murder-for-hire plot.
The would-be online poker kingpin who for years has referred to himself as “Prince Fred” and “Khalifa” was arrested in Las Vegas accused of hiring a former bodyguard to kill a Los Angeles-based filmmaker identified as “Victim One” in court documents. The filmmaker once worked for Khalilian and has been working since 2019 on an unflattering documentary about the alleged serial fraudster’s exploits and misdeeds over most of the past two decades.
The documentary is expected to include summaries of the years Khalilian spent trying to implant himself into the online poker and gambling worlds, including the failed PokerTribes.com and PokerTribe.com schemes detailed below. Those schemes saw Khalilian extract roughly $20 million in funding from two separate Oklahoma tribal nations, one of which later sued him for failing to deliver a workable product.
Khalilian faces up to ten years in prison and a fine if convicted on the murder-for-hire charge.
Former bodyguard notified intended target of plot
The alleged murder-for-hire plot blew up when the former Khalilian bodyguard alerted the filmmaker about Khalilian’s offer to pay for the filmmaker’s death. The former bodyguard had previously worked for a rapper and met Khalilian through that association. However, the bodyguard left Khalilian’s employ after only a year citing Khalilian’s erratic behavior and ongoing pretensions of wealth and status.
As noted in a probable cause affidavit filed by the investigating FBI agent, the filmmaker had interviewed numerous associates of Khalilian’s over the past four years, including several of Khalilian’s former bodyguards. According to some of those bodyguards, Khalilian would order them to wear Secret Service pins, wear fake headsets that weren’t connected to any radios, and to inform inquirers that Khalilian was a “diplomat.”
The bodyguard who Khalilian allegedly contacted with the murder-for-hire offer was among those interviewed by the filmmaker, and after informing the filmmaker in early March about Khalilian’s offer for a killing, the two staged a crime scene in the filmmaker’s Los Angeles apartment that purported to show the filmmaker’s body.
The bodyguard then told Khalilian he had 67 photos and one video showing the killing of the filmmaker, including the staged photo included in this story. The bodyguard also supplied other made-up details before and after the staged fake killing, including enlisting a “celebrity chef” that Khalilian knew to lure the filmmaker out of hiding and obtaining the assistance of “three Mexicans” in killing the filmmaker and disposing of his body.
Meanwhile, the filmmaker contacted authorities with what he knew about Khalilian’s alleged scheme and supplied recordings of violent threats Khalilian had made against the filmmaker. As documented in the affidavit, he made threats including
“I’m going to fuck you up bitch. [Victim One], I’m going to have your fucking head. I’m going to fuck you up so hard. [Victim One], you’re a fucking piece of shit, you motherfucking, cocksucking, motherfucker. Listen to me you motherfucker. When I’m done with you, I’m going to cut each one of your fucking fingers off. I’m coming for you, motherfucker. I was leaving you alone for a couple of years, you hear me you cocksucker? …”
The matter was quickly turned over to a FBI special agent experienced in murder-for-hire crimes, and with the filmmaker’s and bodyguard’s assistance, quickly set up traps to further ensnare Khalilian. According to the affidavit, the bodyguard has already received initial payments toward a total of $20,000 that Khalilian had promised for the filmmaker’s death.
The FBI then created additional banking accounts that were presented to Khalilian as the bodyguard’s, and Khalilian allegedly made several more small payments in the following days from both personal and business accounts. By the time the affidavit was finalized in late March, Khalilian had paid the former bodyguard at least $12,500. The payments included several made from a CashApp account labeled “$PrinceFredKhalifa”.
The UEG and the PokerTribes/PokerTribe connection
Compared to the murder-for-hire allegations, Khalilian’s years trying to become an online-poker bigwig were almost serene. Khalilian first drew a bit of poker-world attention when he signed a deal in 2013 with the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma to create a global online-gambling empire from the tribe’s native lands under the protection of the tribe’s claims of sovereignty and self-dominion.
The planned platform which became PokerTribes.com.faced significant hurdles. The largest was that under the US’s IGRA (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act), operating an online-gambling platform from tribal lands wasn’t allowed; IGRA authorized only certain classes of live-venue gaming.
Nevertheless, the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, which is recognized federally as a singular combined tribe, pumped at least $9.7 million into Khalilian’s PokerTribes.com promises and dreams, and then an untold sum more into an extended state and federal battle to affirm the plan’s legality. In the process, Khalilian’s PokerTribes vision morphed into something even more audacious — an online-gambling platform that was available only to users on flights over international waters.
Meanwhile, the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes won its legal battle involving IGRA, but only in part. A federal judge eventually ruled that there was no law in place that prevented the tribe from offering online-gambling services to international customers since IGRA was applicable only inside the US. But by then it was too late for the PokerTribes concept. The newish combined tribes was fraught with deep political in-fighting, and the ruling party that had okayed the PokerTribes deal with Khalilian and his Universal Entertainment Group corporate entity was soon voted out. The new ruling faction quickly scuttled the deal.
Khalilian had already made millions from the C&A deal without even delivering a working software product. Amid his other issues in Florida, he had twice run afoul of the Federal Trade Commission for running fraudulent telemarketing and robocall operations. One of those, involving extended car warranties, led to a $4 million civil settlement in 2010.
While the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes prepared to sue Khalilian and his associates, Khalilian somehow found a second Oklahoma tribal nation to invest in his online-poker promises. The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma joined with Khalilkian to plan PokerTribe.com without the “s”. Like the Cheyenne and Arapaho nation, the Iowas also pumped millions into Khalilian’s promises. The Iowas soon dumped the in-flight-gaming strategy but still bought into the concept of marketing an international online-poker site imbued with Native American heritage.
The Iowas also realized that such a site needed to be regulated by a reputable international regulatory body, and they reached out to the Isle of Man for regulatory approval. The IOM approved the Iowas’ application but only if the Iowas agreed to four pre-conditions, which neither the Iowas nor the IOM regulators would publicly disclose. One of them, by all outward appearances, was the jettisoning of Khalilian and his operation from anything to do with the planned site.
That site was launched in 2018 as GreySnowPoker.com on a platform developed by Eastern European programmers and with some capable marketing and business talent obtained through industry-savvy headhunters. Yet Khalilian’s sales-pitched dream of an American tribal-operated poker site was little more than a novelty to international players, and the site really never had a chance to build a sizeable player pool in competition against numerous huge, internationally famous operators. GreySnowPoker.com was gone by 2020.
Meanwhile, Khalilian walked away with millions in tribal money. A prominent Oklahoma news outlet reported that Khalilian had used much of the money to retire his long-outstanding $4 million debt to the FTC. Given that the tribes’ investments almost certainly came from federally disbursed operational budgets, Khalilian had crafted a way to make the US government pay off its own judgment against him.
The Soulja Boy poker endorsement scam
There was one other bizarre, poker-related business episode involving Khalilian. That involved the claimed signing in 2016 of rapper Soulja Boy to a $400 million endorsement deal. The deal involved two other companies and sites involved with Khalilian, UEG, and the planned project with the Iowas tribe, and it was linked to the still-lingering in-flight gaming project. Soulja Boy’s big deal with World Poker Fund Holdings and CelebrityWorld.com was a sham from the go, even though many poker and mainstream sites accepted the nonsense at face value. Eventually, Forbes looked into the claims and ran its own takedown of the situation.
Khalilian’s history of alleged threats and violence
Both before and after his years-long flirtation with online poker, Khalilian made headlines several times. In the mid-2000’s, he achieved some fame as the co-owner, along with socialite Paris Hilton, of a popular Miami nightclub. During his tenure there, he was arrested on rape charges, and for punching a club waitress in the face.
Years later, after his PokerTribes.com and PokerTribe.com experiments ended, Khalilian became the subject of one of the most bizarre corporate statements in published history. Khalilian’s forced ouster from what would become GreySnowPoker.com occurred at some point in 2017. Armed with extensive music-world connections and an alleged threat of a hostile takeover, Khalilian soon landed an executive gig with Monster Products, the maker of Dr. Dre-branded headphones and numerous other electronic and music-related items.
Khalilian’s time with Monster lasted yes than a year. He was soon “exited” from the company for alleged misappropriation of funds, including ongoing credit-card theft, forgery, and other transgressions. On September 18, 2018, in a corporate statement entitled “Monster 4.0 for the Next 40 Years,” Monster detailed how they had removed Khalilian from the company.
The statement included this: “A temporary restraining order has been issued against the former executive for the protection of numerous employees of Monster against threats of mutilation, death, and threats to family, in the Superior Court of California, County of San Mateo. A police report was also filed with the South San Francisco Police Department and other law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, against Mr. Khalilian containing, allegations of fraud, theft, and conspiracy.” This writer has seen the threats and they were of a similar flavor as those made against the filmmaker as presented above.
The bizarre and legendary Monster presser also included 17 links to various features and court judgments about Khalilian that had been published over the years, offering some indication that Khalilian’s arrival at Monster was indeed the result of a hostile-takeover compromise.
Khalilian’s history in cryptocurrency
In 2017, Khalilian also made his first venture into the cryptocurrency world. Using the same World Poker Fund Holdings entity employed in the Soulja Boy deal, Khalilian and his associates announced a crypto coin offering or ICO (initial coin offering) purportedly valued at $5 million which would be used to fund other WPFH projects. The WPFH coin had no utility outside the company itself and was an example of what the crypto world later came to call a “shitcoin.”
Khalilian wasn’t the first person bounced out of the online-poker world to resurface in crypto, as evidenced by the resurfacing of one-time UltimateBet attorneys Daniel Friedberg and Stuart Hoegner in roles with prominent crypto firms. Friedberg remains a key figure in the collapse of the FTX crypto exchange and has turned state’s evidence against FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried.
For Khalilian, the $50 million WPFH shitcoin was just the start. He then returned to his tribal and entrepreneurial connections to found another company, Blockchain Consulting Group, which markets itself as a crypto developer serving the tribal-gaming industry.
The company listed numerous luminaries among its leadership early in its existence, including tribal figures, politicians, business executives, and even a political ambassador. Blockchain Consulting Group has yet to issue a statement in the wake of Khalilian’s arrest.
Khalilian is listed as one of BCG’s four founders, along with MetaStrike CEO Peter Nguyen, VIBEhub founder and crypto guru Alessio Mack, and a figure of some familiarity to the poker world, former Victory Poker CEO and one-time Ivey League head Dan Fleyshman. PokerOrg reached out to Fleyshman for comment regarding Khalilian’s arrest but had not heard back at the time of this feature’s publication.
Khalilian’s ongoing crypto projects figure into his alleged plot to kill the filmmaker as well. At one point in the recorded conversations, Khalilian utters to the former bodyguard, “Brother he is hurting all my shareholders tribes everything.”