A founder of payment processor NETeller Plc pleaded guilty on Friday to a conspiracy charge over the handling of billions of dollars in illegal gambling proceeds.

Stephen Lawrence, 47, during a hearing before U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel in Manhattan, also agreed to cooperate with the government.

Lawrence, who is also a former chairman of the company, faces a maximum sentence of five years on the conspiracy charge for his role in the operation of the payment processor.

NETeller co-founder and former President John Lefebvre was also charged in January. The case against him is still pending, the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan said in a statement.

Mr. Lawrence is very glad to have this episode over and looks forward to moving on to the next stage of his life, attorney Peter Neiman said after the hearing.

Castel allowed Lawrence to travel within the United States as well as to Canada and the Bahamas. He set a sentencing date for October 29.

NETeller, which was started in 1999, quit the United States in January, abandoning two-thirds of its business after authorities arrested the two founders.

The legality of Internet gambling in the United States was ambiguous for many years but it was effectively banned last October, when President George W. Bush signed legislation outlawing gaming financial transactions.

A crackdown on Internet gambling by U.S. authorities began last July with the arrest of BETonSPORTS Chief Executive David Carruthers during a layover at a Texas airport.

Last month BETonSPORTS pleaded guilty to U.S. racketeering charges and agreed to spill the beans in cases against founder Gary Kaplan and other co-defendants, including Carruthers.

Kaplan pleaded not guilty last month. Carruthers and seven others have also pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In March Sportingbet brokered a deal with the state of Louisiana to have charges of gambling by computer dropped against its former chairman, Peter Dicks.