Roughly one week ago, an article appeared in The Odenton Patch covering an Anne Arundel County Police Department press conference where our benevolent ruling class is seen gleefully celebrating their "reward" in assisting a federal investigation which seized over $30 million dollars in internet gambling funds. They even ordered a giant Tiger Woods sized check for a photo-op. Note that though the operation was named "Operation Texas Hold'em," it is unrelated to the recent crackdown on online poker sites such as Full Tilt and Poker Stars.
The gist of the story is that the police force set up their own online payment processor and processed payments for internet gambling sites as if they were a real legitimate business. The federal government used this evidence to seize funds belonging to those companies. If you visit the website of their now defunct business, they attempt to direct your outrage to the gambling sites:
Linwood Payment Solutions is a Department of Homeland Security Undercover Business set up to identify and prosecute companies accepting and paying out funds for U.S. customers who gamble online illegally.
If you have questions regarding funds withdrawn from your bank account for gambling purposes contact the online gambling company you provided your banking information to.
They begin by seizing roughly $30 million in funds, a large majority of which belonged to American citizens engaged in a private activity within the confines of their home. Then they shut the website down and encouraged Americans to contact the gambling website to see if they can get their funds back. These are the same businesses that were just shut down and lost access to their website, capital, payment processing services, and are dealing with serious criminal charges. There is absolutely no chance that they will be able to pay back the money that belonged to American citizens, some of which is now in the hands of the Anne Arundel County Police Department:
Police said they would use the money for equipment to assist with undercover investigations, plus new vehicles and weapons.
Apologies to the Americans who won't be receiving the money they deposited via a fake business the government set up, but fear not as they're going to be buying lots of shiny new police toys with your money. This is yet another way in which horrid police activity fuels itself (much more about that here). The police received monetary rewards for disrupting the lives of innocent people and are using that money to buy fancy new equipment which they will use to harass even more private American citizens engaged in activities that some bureaucrat finds distasteful.
The original article showed up on a popular online poker web forum and individuals from across the world began expressing their disapproval in the comments section. As one online commentator aptly described the situation: "This is disgusting. Their smug faces make me wanna puke." Another wrote: "So they have taken money that belongs to American citizens. That's stealing! We should inform the police, oh wait..." The large number of comments prompted the author to write a follow up article, published yesterday. Here is the meat:
To online gamblers and poker players in particular, the seizure and distribution of the funds was the equivalent of a theft.
“What upset me so much was the seizure of those funds and it not being facilitated to get the funds back to the players,” said Bill Sutton, a restaurant manager from Edgewater, who lost $1,000 when a poker site was shut down by the federal government.
Sutton’s money was tied up with Full Tilt Poker, a top online poker site that was shut down in a federal action separate from the one involving Anne Arundel County. But he said he was angered that law enforcement officials appeared to have no plans to work with site operators to return funds to players, who were not the target of the investigation.
“I understand it was a big score for them, and it was a lot of work for them to do it,” he said. “The thing that upset me the most was that they are taking funds from players when it has not been deemed illegal.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore said it had no plans to give money back.
“Illegal gambling proceeds are forfeited to the government,” spokeswoman Vickie E. LeDuc said. “Anyone who believes that an Internet gambling business owes them money can try to collect from the Internet gambling business. The government is not going to give the money to gamblers.”
Legal experts said the distribution of seized money is not unprecedented, but that it’s rare for a local department to hold a press conference and photo op.
Oops, just kidding. There will be no apologies from the U.S. Attorney's Office, or really, anyone in a position to actually stop this type of noxious behavior.
The decision to go after gambling operations has had devastating consequences. Earlier this year the state of Virginia agreed to pay a family $2 million after an unarmed man was killed during a investigation into money being wagered on sports.