PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Millions of dollars belonging to a professional poker player from Oregon is being seized by the government, even though he has not been arrested.
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.
KOIN 6 News is not naming the 28-year-old man from Newport, Oregon because he has not been charged with a crime.
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.
Last week, federal prosecutors asked a judge in Eugene to seize the money from 4 accounts at JPMorgan Chase, plus Bitcoin and another cyptocurrency – Ethereum – until the case concludes.
Several days later, Judge Anna Brown agreed. “You are hereby commanded to arrest and take into your possession until further order of the Court… Assorted Funds,” she ruled.
In a separate filing, prosecutors also asked a judge to seize a house in Newport which they contend was purchased as part of the scheme to launder the money. In November, Judge Malcom March signed off:
“It is ordered that the Internal Revenue Service is hereby authorized to enter the Defendant real property, including any structures, on one or more occasions during the pendency of this civil… forfeiture proceeding for the purpose of conducting an inspection and inventory and appraisal… which may include still and video photography…”
Friday a judge told the man’s lawyers they have to file formal claim for his house no later than June 3, 2019. Lincoln County property records show he bought the home in January 2017 for $336,000.
Lawyers for the man are denying he did 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. Minns is a Texas lawyer who specializes in accusations of white collar crimes.
Minns said 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…”
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.