PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Federal prosecutors have agreed to put their efforts to seize millions of dollars from a professional poker player on hold until their criminal investigation is complete.
The move marks the first time federal agents have publicly acknowledged the Newport, Oregon man is under direct criminal investigation.
“The parties are currently exploring a pre-indictment resolution which would include resolution of the civil forfeiture matters,” wrote Amy Potter, Assistant U.S. Attorney in court documents filed in federal court in Oregon.
KOIN 6 News is not naming the 28-year-old poker player because he has not been charged with a crime.
In May, a federal judge ordered the Internal Revenue Service to take possession of $3,926,478.11 and a sum of cryptocurrency after the U.S. Attorney for Oregon said it was earned illegally through the sale of pirated movies and television shows.
In November of 2018, agents seized his house in Newport which they believe was purchased as part of the scheme to launder the money.
Federal prosecutors believe the man and “other known and unknown co-conspirators” operated several websites and received hundreds of thousands of payments from subscribers to download movies and TV shows in violation of copyright laws. Documents filed in Federal Court in Oregon detail a scheme going back to 2013 when Homeland Security Investigation agents received a tip from PayPal about suspicious websites: www.noobroom.com and www.noobroom7.com.
According to court records, a judge in Eugene allowed the government to seize the money from four accounts at JPMorgan Chase, plus Bitcoin and another cryptocurrency – Ethereum – until the case concludes.
The man’s lawyers have filed paperwork accusing the federal government of unlawfully taking his property. They told the judges he has not done anything wrong. In court filings, they accuse the government of violating his 4th and 5th Amendment rights and demanded a jury trial to fight prosecutors’ attempts to force the forfeiture of the house.
“We don’t generally comment on a current case, but as a matter of principle, the government should not grab a person’s assets and strip them of their resources unless and until proven guilty,” the man’s lawyer, Rain Minns told KOIN 6 News in May. Minns is a Texas lawyer who specializes in accusations of white-collar crimes.
According to the new court filings, federal prosecutors have spoken with Minns about their proposal to postpone the forfeiture cases and she has no objection. The judge has asked both sides for an update on where the case stands by mid-October.
Minns told KOIN6 News her client is a professional poker player. Several gambling websites and his Facebook page show him participating in Las Vegas Poker tournaments, including the World Series of Poker.
In the first court filings in November, IRS Special Agent Keith Druffel laid out a lucrative venture, with more than $6.3 million deposited into the man’s Stripes account. Stripes is a payment service, similar to PayPal.
Druffel said the man also used other websites: Superchillin, Movietv.to and Sit2play.com.
“I determined that (he) received substantial revenue from the above listed websites. In 2018, he was averaging over $500,000 per month. In 2017, (he) received over $2.2 million. In 2016, (he) received over $1 million in revenue, and in 2014 and 2015, (he) received on average about $400,000 a year in revenue,” wrote Druffel.
Federal investigators worked with private investigators from the Motion Picture Association of America which tried to shut down the websites.
“Approximately, five days after the MPAA sent the cease-and-desist letter to Noobroom, the MPAA received an email to its undercover subscription at Noobroom… The email advised that user accounts had been moved to a new website, www.superchillin.com,” Druffel wrote.
Homeland Security Agents were able to download movies from Superchillin.
Investigators tried to find out if the man had a lucrative traditional job, which would account for the big deposits.
“(He) was found to have no verifiable legitimate income sources,” wrote Druffel.