In a case that has gone on for more than three years, two men in Kansas have pled guilty to charges of operating a gambling operation and different tax violations. While these two have pled guilty in their cases, poker professional Brandon Steven – who had been caught up in the wiretapping that the federal government had on the operators – seemingly has been cleared of any wrongdoing.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Kansas reported that Danny Chapman and Daven Flax had pled guilty in separate plea bargains. For Chapman, 67, it was a plea of guilty to one count of operating an illegal gambling business and one count of tax evasion. The other deal was with Flax, 46, who pled guilty to two counts of operating an illegal gambling business and one count of making a false statement on a tax return. There are currently no reports of what either man will receive for a sentence from the federal court, but they could each be sentenced to up to five years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000 for the gambling charge and another five years and $250,000 on the tax charges.
In Chapman’s case, he admitted to being an “underground bookie” that worked across the Wichita area. Over the period covering 2013-17, Chapman admitted to earning $1.5 million from his gambling operation. At one point, five people worked as “runners” (collectors) in the operation. Chapman supposedly laundered the gambling money through the ownership of cars and in cashier’s checks, which he stored in Wichita and Las Vegas.
Flax, for his part, did it the old-fashioned way. Flax ran an underground poker game that operated in the Wichita area, one that became a very high-stakes, invite only affair. It would rotate around the Wichita area to keep authorities at bay and, as Flax admitted in his plea deal, he took a rake from those games and provided all the amenities (dealers, security, etc.). In an odd occurrence, Flax’s operation would have gone unnoticed except for the fact he was one of the “runners” for Chapman’s gambling ring.
So where does Steven figure into this equation? Last year, Steven was informed by the Kansas U. S. Attorney that a phone that had been “subscribed to you” had been intercepted by a federal wiretap in 2015. At the time, Steven commented to the Wichita Eagle that he was “aware of the broad nature of this inquiry.” “As you know, and everybody knows, I play high stakes poker….they are looking into my poker and my involvement (in a casino venture)…I’ve retained counsel and we’re going to fully cooperate with this matter.”
As is evident now, Steven was never a center of the investigation, just a casualty caught up in the wiretapping. From reports by the feds, Steven and his brother Rodney were both caught in the wiretaps and at no time were charges ever filed against them. Along with them, others caught up in the mix included former State Senator Michael O’Donnell, who disavowed any knowledge of Chapman and Flax.
Steven now can head back to what he arguably does best – poker. 2016 was an outstanding year for the high stakes pro, taking down over $1.2 million in winning a $50,000 Super High Roller event at ARIA in October and driving deep in the World Series of Poker’s $111,111 High Roller for One Drop. Potentially because of the specter of the feds hanging over him, Steven only made a bit more than $54K in 2017 from his tournament exploits. Still, Steven has over $3.1 million in career earnings and will be looking to “get back on the horse” in 2018.