Online Poker Players Money Frozen in USA

Published Wednesday, June 10, 2009 -

It is confirmed that the Federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York have demanded that four American banks, including Citibank and Wells Fargo, freeze approximately $33m US in funds held by online poker players. This action has been seen as a crackdown on online gambling in the USA.

The U.S. online poker industry has been thrown for a loop in the wake of this notification and will be sure to react swiftly in the courts.

A seizure warrant last week was issued by a judge in the Southern District of New York for an account at a Wells Fargo bank in San Francisco. A faxed letter signed by Arlo Devlin-Brown, the assistant US attorney for the Southern District of New York was sent to the Alliance Bank of Arizona. The prosecutor said that accounts held by payment processor Allied Systems Inc. are subject to seizure and forfeiture "because they constitute property involved in money laundering transactions and illegal gambling offenses." In another letter Mr. Devlin-Brown asked that the bank treat the funds "as legally seized" by the FBI, saying that "the government has probable cause that the gambling payments of US residents had been directed to offshore illegal Internet gambling businesses."

A spokesman at Citibank, Stephen Cohen, a unit of Citigroup confirmed to the New York Times that the bank had received a request from prosecutors. He said, as a matter of policy, Citibank complies with such requests. A spokesperson for the office of the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, Rebecca Carmichael declined to comment on the subject.

These developments show a distinct upturn in the campaign by the Southern District of New York's prosecutors against online gambling showing now that they have turned their attention to poker rather than just sports betting.

Executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, John Pappas, said in a written communication, "The PPA will pursue every legal course available to ensure that poker players' funds are not seized and their right to play poker online is protected," It is thought some 24 to 27,000 poker players are affected by this seizure of funds.

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