In a story that admittedly has plenty of mystery to it, Department of Justice lawyers has gone in front of an Oregon federal judge to strip assets from an unknown professional poker player that total into the millions of dollars. The reason for this action? Alleged (that right, he hasn’t been convicted yet) piracy of television shows and movies.
According to KOIN-TV’s Dan Tilkin, federal attorneys have petitioned in federal court in Portland, Oregon, to remove assets for a 28-year-old man that Tilkin and KOIN do not name because he hasn’t been charged to this point. In the documents, the prosecutors are asking the courts to seize nearly $4 million, which includes a home that was purchased in January 2017 for $336,000 and sizeable amounts of Bitcoin and Ethereum. It may seem that this is out of line since the person hasn’t been charged yet, but prosecutors say that the reason for the request is legitimate: they believe that the person is serving as a money launderer and, under U. S. Code 18:981, the property is eligible for civil forfeiture.
Here’s what the federal government is seeking from the unknown defendant WITHOUT officially charging him:
Roughly 1022 ETH (Ethereum)
Roughly 37 BTC (Bitcoin)
Roughly $4 million in “funds” (unknown whether cash and/or property)
Attorneys for the unnamed defendant in the case were present in Oregon to argue their side in front of Federal Court Judge Anna Brown. Those attorneys are led by Rain Minns, who according to Tilkin comes from Texas and is a white-collar criminal defense attorney. Minns was quoted by Tilkin as saying, “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 defendant’s attorneys are arguing that the seizure is a clear violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights of their client. Those amendments which provide a citizen of the States of America with protection from unlawful search and seizure and the right to protect oneself from self-incrimination.
Feds Try to Show Improprieties
In their court documents, federal lawyers show information that is rather difficult to argue. An IRS agent was brought in to demonstrate that the unknown defendant had more than $6.3 million deposited into his Stripes account. Stripes is a competitor for PayPal, which is a popular online wallet that allows people to pay for goods and services easily.
The agent, Keith Druffel, cited that, on average, the defendant deposited over $500,000 per month into his account from several websites, including Superchillin, Movietv.to and Sit2play.com. These sites all offer streaming services but have all been accused of piracy of popular television shows and movies. In 2017, Druffel testified that the unknown defendant earned $2.2 million in 2017 and a million in revenue in 2016.
Further tipping off the feds was investigation in coordination with the Motion Picture Association of America. This investigation led federal authorities in pursuit of the defendant from one site, Noobroom, to Superchillin. They also investigated whether the defendant had a job (AKA a legal income) and found “no verifiable legitimate income source.” The defendant’s attorneys cite that he was a professional poker player as his job.
Where Do We Go from Here?
While the case is on the docket, there has been no information given regarding a decision from Judge Brown or whether the property can be seized. In normal circumstances, a law enforcement group would have to file charges and arrest someone for their crimes before they can seize any property that they allege was obtained illegally. This move by the feds is an extremely odd one, one that could signify they are still in the investigative process and aren’t ready to file charges in the case. Unless they do soon, the Judge in the case might be more inclined to refuse the motion because of seizure regulations. It remains to be seen, however, how this Judge will rule on this case.