In a new twist involving the seizure of a purported $5 million in funds destined for internet gambling customers in Maryland, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore is seeking a civil forfeiture, according to the Baltimore City Paper.
Documentation filed in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland targets several payment processors: Electracash, Forshay Enterprises, HMD, and Direct Channel. Banks affected by the U.S. Attorney’s Office actions include Bank of America, Wachovia, Citibank, and Wells Fargo, four of the country’s largest financial institutions. Also mentioned is Mercantile Bank. Upon seizure by federal authorities, the funds were transferred to the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The government charges that the proceeds constitute “property that was used in an illegal gambling business, or constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to an illegal gambling business.” The forfeiture action goes on to single out four online poker sites by name: Bodog, Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars, and Absolute Poker. The documentation explains, “Based on interviews with internet gamblers, I know that the above-mentioned sites all have engaged in betting or wagering in violation of Maryland law.”
The forfeiture complaint adds that each company has in excess of $2,000 per day in gross revenue. In addition, the funds seized were funneled from around the world into internet gamblers’ accounts, emanating from locales like Canada, Ireland, Germany, and Switzerland. Also, “most of these transactions were in amounts greater than $10,000.” Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Lisa Ward signed the affidavit, which is dated March 23rd. A total of 18 bank accounts are targeted and the City Paper alleges that the Federal Government has seized more than $5 million.
Evidence tying the 18 bank accounts to Bodog, Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars, and Absolute Poker is not presented. The City Paper notes, “Most of the evidence supporting the seizures remains secret, filed in investigators’ affidavits that judges have put under seal.” The news outlet has logged seizures of various internet gambling bank accounts since September of last year. The most recent round came in mid-January and amounted to $1.5 million. The Calvin Ayre-founded Bodog is the only site among the four that operates an online sports book.
In late October, government officials seized funds belonging to Atrium Financial Group, a payment processor with purported ties to GoldenCasino.com. The seizure amounted to $365,000, but was not mentioned in this month’s forfeiture complaint.
Bodog, Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars, and Absolute Poker all accept real money action from the United States. PokerStars is the world’s largest online poker site, boasting a seven-day running average of 30,000 real money ring game players, according to PokerScout.com. Full Tilt Poker is the industry’s second largest site, with an average cash game player count of 16,200. Absolute Poker is one-half of the CEREUS Network, which also includes UB.com. The Network is the sixth largest worldwide, offering a seven-day average of 2,400 cash game players. Bodog is considerably smaller, with 830 real money ring game players on average.
The civil forfeiture complaint spans 16 pages and Assistant United States Attorney Richard Kay also signed the filing. Ward claimed that she opened an account on Bodog and placed “a number of bets on sporting events.” Gamblers and entities she interviewed are not outlined. Stay tuned to Poker News Daily for the latest headlines from Maryland.