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Maryland seizes more GAMBLING Funds
10/29/09 - The Maryland-based federal task group pursuing cash processors suspected of facilitating online gambling transactions has struck again, according to the Baltimore City Paper.
The newspaper is closely monitoring the task force's activities, especially in regards to seizure warrants applied for through the courts and appearing on court records.
In the latest discover, the newspaper reports that the seizure of $365 366.69 from two bank accounts in the name of Atrium Financial Group (AFG) is the latest move by enforcement officials.
According to a court affidavit published by the newspaper, Delaware-based AFG is alleged to disburse money to online gamblers, including those using GoldenCasino
Unlike earlier seizures, the Atrium Financial action is supported by an affidavit that was not sealed. The 13-page sworn statement by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agent Augusta Ferenec, who is based in New Orleans, La., was signed on September 4 by U.S. District Court magistrate judge Beth Gesner, with the warrant filed in court records on October 22.
Ferenec's affidavit, claims the investigation leading to the AFG seizures dates back to July 14, 2008, when Louisiana State Police officers opened an "undercover gambling account" with GoldenCasino , gambled online and later requested a payout.
The first check—from a Canadian company called Interco Finance Corporation (IFC) - bounced. Eventually, a second check came, this one from AFG. Thus, the investigation claimed to have established that GoldenCasino was using both IFC and AFG as payment processors for its online gambling patrons.
Ferenec explains in the affidavit that a fourth business - Con-Tex Converters in Canada - entered the picture as investigators followed the global money trail.
For instance, an AFG account with Mercantile Bank received wire transfers between December 2008 and January 2009 amounting to more than $1.5 million. The money came from a Con-Tex bank account in Cyprus and a combined Con-Tex/IFC bank account in Canada.
During the same timeframe, Ferenec's affidavit continues, AFG cut 1 473 checks from that account, at least two of which went to people in Maryland. In August 2009, investigators talked to one of the Maryland recipients, who admitted the proceeds had come from online gambling.
In all, Ferenec's affidavit maps out a total of nearly $6.3 million wired internationally by either Con-Tex or IFC to AFG bank accounts in the U.S. The AFG accounts, which the affidavit says have all been closed by the banks due to suspicions that the money was tied to illegal gambling, were held with Mercantile, Sovereign Bank, Wachovia Bank, National City Bank, and TD Bank North.
The international wire transfers from Con-Tex and IFC were the sole sources of funds in the AFG accounts, the affidavit explains.
The two AFG bank accounts targeted for seizure are with Fifth Third Bank and Wilmington Savings Fund Society.
The Fifth Third account, from which $124 028.88 was seized, received about $3.3 million in wire transfers from Con-Tex and IFC between December 2008 and June 2009, the affidavit explains. Nearly 4 000 checks were cut from the account, totaling about $3.1 million disbursed to people in the U.S.
During July and August 2009, 35 of those checks were issued to Maryland residents. The amount of money entering AFG's Wilmington Savings account is not specified in the affidavit, which explains that about 575 checks were cut from the account, one of which was mailed to a Texan who "confirmed to the bank that the check was the proceeds of online gambling."
Ferenec's affidavit says it's likely that money will continue to enter the targeted accounts "for a period of time" after the warrants are executed, because those involved "will be unable to promptly stop the flow of funds or inform all of their contacts of this investigation." Therefore, Ferenec requests that the warrant order the banks to allow the deposits to continue, but not any attempted debits, and that "ICE be allowed to periodically remove such funds" during a 21-day period after the warrants are executed.
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