Posted 6/3/11 :
County police department does well out of online poker site busts
Black Friday has proved profitable for county police forces assisting US federal authorities in their investigations into online gambling and subsequent cash and asset confiscations, it appears.
The Baltimore Sun reported this week that the Anne Arundel County Police Department has hit the jackpot – getting nearly a half-million dollars for working with federal agencies in a sting operation that closed down major online poker sites.
Calling it "the single largest asset distribution in county history," County Executive John R. Leopold accepted a check worth $470,407.62 this week for helping to seize millions in a two-year investigation called "Operation Texas Hold'em."
Leopold said that the department expects to receive more forfeited assets in the future. William Winter, the special agent in charge of the Homeland Security Investigations office in Baltimore, said that the Maryland State Police, which also participated in the sting, will also receive some money.
Asked how the money was shared out so quickly — the indictments were only unsealed last week – Winter said, "The money that was shared back today is from seizures that happened more than a year ago."
The Baltimore Sun was told by police spokesman Justin Mulcahy that the county police have worked with immigration authorities on their investigations since 2006. Three county officers are assigned full time to Winter's office, a division of U.S. Immigation and Customs Enforcement. They include Cpl. Scott Gunn, who was part of the sting operation that began in December 2008.
The department's portion of the money recovered during this operation was based on the number of hours Gunn spent working on the case.
The Anne Arundel County police force receives about $250,000 in forfeited assets in a typical year, according to Teare, who told the newspaper that the money received from this operation will help pay for new undercover vehicles, equipment and officer training.
"We just went through a very tough budget where we're getting vehicles taken away," said a county official, commenting on the value of the seized funds in a depressed economy. "This infuses money to be able [to buy] vehicles, weapons that are less lethal and to do training that is much needed for these officers to do their job."
In the gambling case, federal investigators in Baltimore set up a phony New Jersey-based business called Linwood Payment Solutions and handled more than 300,000 transactions worth more than $33 million. The case involves international owners in five different countries operating off-shore betting operations, mostly in Costa Rica.
"We were doing only a small portion of business for some of these companies," Special Agent Winter said. "Forfeiture is a powerful tool … to seize assets used by criminal organizations in their illicit enterprises or through their criminal activities. We seek to deprive criminal organizations of their main motivator – money."