Customs confiscates money from poker players

Posted by Steve Ruddock on Jan 19, 2012 Posted in Legal Poker News, World Poker News | No Comments »

One of the first lessons you learn at the poker tables is that patience is a virtue; for two brothers and a cousin returning to the US from the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) in the Bahamas this lesson appears to have gone unlearned.

18 year-old Sean Ruane of Maywood, New Jersey, his 23 year-old brother Michael Ruane, and the pair’s cousin, 18 year-old Thomas Freeman Jr. were detained by customs officials in the Bahamas for falsely declaring the amount of money they had in their possession according to The trio appears to have been aware of the $10,000 law as they divided the over $26,000 they had amongst themselves to fall under the $10,000 threshold in order to fast-track through customs because they were running late for their flight. They soon realized the folly in their plan when they realized they were unaware that it applies to a family and not an individual.

Customs officials became suspicious and conducted a secondary when the younger Ruane began sweating profusely and appeared nervous –another not so good trait for a poker player to have.

While the trio made what appears to be an honest mistake, and there doesn’t seem to be any nefarious activity that took place (perhaps they had plans to hide the $26k for tax evasion purposes) the judge handling the case in the Bahamas, Deputy Chief Magistrate Carolita Bethell, was quick to chastise the youngsters, and despite pleas from their defense attorney to waive a custodial sentence, the judge let the trio sweat before handing down their sentence.

All three plead guilty to the charge and called it an “unequivocal mistake”. Defense Attorney Keith Seymour pointed out their clean criminal records in the Bahamas and in the US, and stated that they realized their money would be confiscated, and they just wanted to return home.

In the end they were convicted, but the judge did not fine or sentence them further, citing that “The confiscation of funds is punishment enough,” adding, “because you have no convictions in this jurisdiction and because you did not waste the court’s time and pleaded guilty.” She did however lecture the three men, stating, “All you had to do was fill out a form, instead you intended to deceive the officers at the pre-clearance… And now you’ve lost all this sum of money,”

This is a valuable lesson for not only the two brothers and their cousin, but for poker players who travel internationally in general. If you’ve done nothing wrong don’t try to get around the system. It’s also a good idea to brush-up on local laws, since had one of the offenders criminal records not been as squeaky clean it’s, or had their attitudes about the funds seizure been different, it’s likely additional fines and possible jail time could have come from this!

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