Seized Poker Winnings Asked to be Returned
13 July 2009
According to the Associated Press a payment processor has asked a judge to order the return online poker players money in an amount close to $14 Million. This money was seized illegally they say by the federal government.
Here is the Press Release:
WASHINGTON (AP) — A payment processor that handles the accounts of online poker players wants a judge to order the return of about $14 million that the company says was illegally seized by the federal government.
Account Services Corp. of San Diego made the request in a filing with a federal judge there Friday.
An advocacy group for online poker, The Poker Players Alliance, said the money is part of the more than $30 million recently frozen by the federal government from payment processors. The poker group told The Associated Press Monday it planned to file a motion with the court to participate in the case on the side of Account Services.
“Any action contesting the government’s seizure of players’ funds will help protect the rights of U.S. Internet poker players, and we will explore every legal avenue to ensure that our members’ voices are heard and their rights are protected,” said John Pappas, the poker group’s executive director.
In its filing, Account Services said that federal prosecutors seized $13.3 million from an account at a Wells Fargo Bank in Escondido, Calif., and $1 million from two accounts at a Union Bank in San Diego. Although the Wells Fargo funds were seized with a warrant, Account Services said, prosecutors contacted Union Bank without obtaining a warrant.
Included in the filing is a June 12 e-mail from the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York to Union Bank, in which prosecutors say that “exigent circumstances” require that money be frozen immediately while they obtain a seizure warrant. About two weeks later, a seizure warrant was issued for Union Bank by U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman in New York City, according to a June 24 order included in the filing.
Yusill Scribner, a spokeswoman for the Southern District prosecutors, said the office had no comment. The Justice Department has long maintained that Internet gambling is illegal; the poker group and Account Services challenges that view.
Account Services said the seizure was unreasonable because, it argued, neither the company, the players nor the banks had violated the law. It said it will likely have to close down if the money isn’t returned, and that it’s received legal threats from check-cashing businesses who have had to deal with bounced checks from poker players.
A lawyer for Account Services referred calls to Jeff Ifrah, a lawyer who represents the Interactive Gaming Council, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based trade association for online casinos. Ifrah said that Account Services’ entire business was processing payments for the now-seized bank accounts.
He said that the funds were for players on sites such as Pokerstars.com and Fulltiltpoker.com.
“Poker players have been damaged significantly,” said Ifrah. “Some of the players face civil liability for bounced checks, some have had bank accounts closed.”
A 2006 law prohibits financial institutions from accepting payments from credit cards, checks or electronic fund transfers to settle online wagers. The Justice Department viewed Internet gambling as illegal even before that.
Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, has introduced legislation that would regulate rather than ban Internet gambling.
At least half the $16 billion Internet gambling industry, which is largely hosted on overseas sites, is estimated to be fueled by U.S. bettors.
We all hope the judge will issue the order and refund the money belonging to the players, and that this will be the beginning of getting our freedom back to gamble online!