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Internet Poker Funds Froze Based on 1955 Law

Written by:
Jagajeet Chiba
Published on:
Jul/03/2009
Internet Poker

On June 2, 2009, the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, issued a civil seizure warrant which the government subsequently executed against all funds on deposit in Well Fargo Bank in San Francisco, account number 7986104185, held in the name of Account Services, Inc., and all property traceable thereto.   These funds were also tied to the two largest online poker rooms:  PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.

The civil seizure warrant, signed by United States Magistrate Judge Theodore H. Katz, recited that an Affidavit was sworn to before the Court by Dana Conte (the "Conte Affidavit"), a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and that Special Agent Conte "has reason to believe that the funds specified in the above-captioned bank account are subject to seizure and civil forfeiture pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 981(a)(1)(A) and (C), 981(b), 984, and 1955." The seizure warrant issued by Magistrate Judge Katz stated, "I am satisfied that there is probable cause to believe that the property so described is subject to seizure and civil forfeiture" pursuant to the referenced statutes.

So what exactly is 18 U.S.C. § 981?

18 U.S.C. § 981 is the federal civil forfeiture statute.  Subsections (a)(1)(A) and (C) describe offenses that are predicate acts for civil forfeiture.  Subsection (b) describes the procedure for obtaining a seizure warrant to effectuate the civil forfeiture.  18 U.S.C. § 1955 makes it a federal crime to conduct a gambling business when, among other conditions, the gambling is illegal under "the law of the State ... in which it is conducted."

For some time, poker players have felt they were exempt from any laws related to gambling prohibition.  At the time the seizure was reported, many believed funds were targeted under a 1962 "Wire Act" applied almost exclusively to sports betting.

Gambling911.com revealed on Thursday it had filed a Motion to Intervene and to unseal court records relating to the issuance of the civil seizure warrant in this matter.  As a member of the media, Gambling911.com through its parent company, Costigan Media, was exercising its First Amendment rights to obtain this information. 

Gambling911.com is represented by Baruch Weiss of Arent Fox.  Mr. Weiss served as the assistant general counsel for enforcement at the Treasury Department, and as the acting deputy general counsel at Homeland Security.

Jagajeet Chiba, Gambling911.com 

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