Is the Secret Service questioning poker players

Posted by Steve Ruddock on Apr 08, 2012 Posted in Legal Poker News, Poker Gossip | No Comments »

File this one under “Unconfirmed but possible”.

Last week a poster on the 2+2 poker forums started an interesting thread where he described an encounter between himself and a pair of Secret Service agents investigating a pair of payment processors. The thread written by “bmorganonnap” was met with some skepticism, some disbelief, as well as many people finding the story credible.

Here is a look at the full post by “bmorganonnap”:

I was at the gym this morning when my phone rang from an unknown number. I answered and the man on the other end starting explaining that he was a secret service agent and that he needed to have a face to face chat with me in order to clear up a case of ‘identity theft’, ‘money laundering’, and ‘bank fraud’. It really felt like a scam, (I was like, doesn’t the SS protect the president???) so I told him to not bother with me, and that if these claims were serious he needed to contact me through mail or through a verifiable source other than a miscellaneous phone number.

After hanging up, my phone rings again. And again. And again. I keep ignoring it, and finally answer and he starts explaining the gravity of the situation and that we are going to have a face to face, or he will be issuing a warrant for my arrest. He cites my full name, SSN, DOB, that I am a psych major at OSU, and all other information that any scammer would be fishing for. I tell him that I will just go down to the police station and meet them there, and he accepts this. Im starting to believe this isn’t a scam.

I get home, and my phone rings again. He claims he is at my apartment, with his partner, in a black ford. Sure enough, black ford rolls around, and two guys in suits step out with folders. They follow me into the lobby of my building, present their badges, and ID cards, (they are legitimate, as far as I can tell, secret service badges and id cards) and I decide that I should probably listen to them.

They start asking me about wire transfers I received from 2009-2010, from payment processors such as “clearwire” (i think) and another called “prime” something. They say that these payment processors are known to have funded terrorism, financed kiddy porn networks, and are otherwise involved in pretty much any kind of money laundering possible. I inform them that I am a professional poker player and that all of these wires into my account came from Absolutepoker.com. Once I mention that I am a professional poker player the seriousness of the situation seemed to evaporate a bit and they started talking a bit more casually with me.

They said they are currently investigating anyone who received payments from any of these processors, that playing online poker is illegal, or any form of online ‘gambling’ for that matter, and that by accepting payment I committed the act of ‘bank fraud’ and ‘money laundering’ and that if they wanted they could charge me and issue a warrant for my arrest. However, since I cooperated with them, and I’m just at the consumer level, there would be no charges against me. They also, unfortunately, informed me that any funds locked up on AP or UB have been completely seized and that there was no way I would ever be seeing them. This really sucks as I have 45k on ap and was hoping that maybe some day I would at least get a piece of it. They also advised that I myself not engage in any type of online poker or gambling due to it being illegal, and that any transferring of funds to or from a gambling company, either directly or indirectly, constitutes bank fraud and money laundering, and that I advise anyone I know to stop playing on the sites that have yet to be seized by the DOJ, which they said was happening as we were speaking.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it sounds like the secret service is finally starting to go after poker players for online gambling. They said they are going to subpoena my bank accounts for further inquiry, but that it shouldn’t interfere with my day to day life, they just have to do their due diligence to make sure that there are no more wire transfers coming in from these companies.

Has anyone else had this happen to them yet? I was really shook up from the whole experience and thought I would post it on here as a warning and also to see if anyone had any advice for what I should or shouldn’t have said to them during our conversation or in the future. They left me with their number and told me to call if I had any more information regarding the payment processors that I had received wires from in the past (which I dont, they just always showed up as “wire transfer from 1-800-xxx-xxxx on my bank statements).

Thanks in advance.

Before I get into the details of the post, and some of the follow-up comments, it should be noted that this type of investigation IS within the jurisdiction of the Secret Service. Since 9/11 the Secret Service, best known for their role in protecting the President, elected officials, and foreign dignitaries, has seen their role in the Treasury Department expanded to include not only protection and counterfeit crimes, but also into electronic crimes, most notably electronic crimes dealing with identity theft, bank fraud, and other financial activities.

A poster from the Poker Players Alliance, “skallagrim” offered up some precedence for such a visit by posting:

I am not going to post an opinion here, but I think pointing out a few very easily verified facts may help inform some of the very interesting opinions already posted:

1) It has been revealed in public affidavits filed by the government in Court (in support of seizure warrants) that Federal Agents, including Treasury agents, have frequently interviewed poker players to verify that the funds they obtained from a specific processor under investigation were, in fact, payments from poker sites.

2) The DOJ has stated before Congress that no existing FEDERAL law makes MERE PLAYING of online poker a crime; all FEDERAL criminal offenses are targeted at those “in the business of betting and wagering” and this has long been held not to include MERE PLAYERS.

3) Being a “mere player” is, however, not a defense. It is the cut off point between who violates the Federal law and who does not. What activity qualifies as being more than a “mere player” can be subject to debate.

4) STATE LAWS ARE A VERY DIFFERENT MATTER. EACH STATE IS DIFFERENT. In some states it violates state law to play online poker.

5) The LEGAL definition of gambling is not the same as the usual definition or the Websters’ definition. The LEGAL definition requires that wagering money be done on something “not under one’s control or influence” or when participating in a “game of chance.” A “game of chance” is usually defined as a game where chance predominates in determining the outcome; a game where even if skill is a factor, it is a factor that cannot overcome the chance factor. Many scholars and lawyers believe poker is not a “game of chance” under the LEGAL definition, is clearly a game where your acts influence the outcome, and is therefore not gambling as LEGALLY defined (in most places – there are variations in the definition in some places)

6) When interviewing someone with respect to an investigation, it is not illegal for the officer to lie to you about facts. Indeed it is a rather common tactic to test an interviewee’s reliability (if that is in question). If you lie to the officer, however, you have committed a crime.

Skallagrim

If you believe the Original Poster’s claims, there seems to be two schools of thought on the matter:

1) OP was targeted to see if he was involved in the more nefarious crimes

2) OP was fed a load of BS by the agents in an effort to make him divulge what he did know about the payment processors connection with different online poker rooms

Either way you slice it, it appears all is well when it comes to poker players being targets of prosecution. There are a number of court records that point to Secret Service agents conducting interviews with online poker players, and no charges have ever been filed in these instances; all of the information seems to be being collected to form cases against payment processors and the online poker rooms themselves.

Anyone looking to read through the thread to find a conclusion as to the veracity of the claim will be a little disappointed as it has sidetracked into a debate on whether or not it’s in your interests to talk to the police or other law enforcement agencies without a lawyer. Here is the link anyway: Secret Service Agents came to my residence today

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