October 28, 2021 Featured Articles, Poker News Petr Černý

Poker player sent to prison for smuggling cocaine to cover high stakes loss

A poker player who claimed to have lost £60,000 to “very dangerous” opponents was jailed this week for smuggling £25,000 worth of cocaine into Jersey to repay his gambling debt…

Poker player sent to prison for smuggling cocaine to cover high stakes loss

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Smuggling cocaine to pay money back

56-year-old Fulham man Andrew John Bennett claimed he was drunk when he lost the huge sum at poker. Later he discovered that the people he had been playing with were “very dangerous”.

Bennett also alleged he was then told he had to “pay money back straight away or had to do something to pay the debt, otherwise something would happen to his family.”

That, a Jersey court heard this week, led to his attempt to smuggle more than 125g of cocaine through Jersey customs on a flight from Bristol on April 30th this year.

When stopped and questioned by a Customs and Immigration officer, Bennett claimed to be visiting the island to play poker at two local clubs.

As well as being unable to remember the location of one of the clubs, suspicions were aroused when he was found to have a bank card in someone else’s name.

A further search of his rucksack revealed a blue plastic carrier bag in a zipped compartment. Inside which there was a clingfilm package containing white powder.

Bennett claimed he didn’t know what the powder was. However, the analysis revealed it to be 125.65 of cocaine, with an average purity of 60%. The street value was estimated at between £18,000 and £25,000 ($35,000), with a wholesale value of between £9,000 and £11,000.

Bennett was arrested and had an iPhone and iPad seized. But he refused to give passwords for either item, which later saw 15 months added to his prison sentence. The court heard that this was only the second case on the island of someone “failing to disclose keys”.

Was Bennett forced to smuggle cocaine?

Advocate Sam Brown for the prosecution stated that Bennett had “imported a significant quantity of cocaine at relatively high purity that was to be sold on the streets of Jersey.”

Describing him as “a trusted courier performing a valuable function in the supply of drugs in the Jersey community,” the prosecution rejected defence claims that Bennett was forced into the smuggling attempt.

According to defending Advocate Julia Anne-Dix, Bennett was “not a sophisticated drug mule”. He had only resorted to “desperate measures” after losing the £60k at poker.

Dix described her client’s subsequent behaviour as a “foolish decision to undertake crime to pay back debts,” and pointed to Bennett’s diary as proof.

The black book found during his arrest recorded his poker games  and one week before his arrest an entry stated: “Totally f***ed. Worst ever.”

Commissioner Julian Clyde-Smith, sitting at the Jersey Royal Court with Jurats Collette Crill, Jane Ronge and Robert Christensen MBE, described Bennett’s decision as “foolish”.

He added that the court had taken into consideration Bennett’s guilty plea and the mitigation outlined in letters from himself and a relative.

Bennett was sentenced to six years and three months imprisonment for the drug smuggling charge. He got an additional 15 months for failing to disclose the passcodes, the sentences to be served consecutively.

Further drug-related incidents

Bennett is far from the first or only poker pro to be involved in drug smuggling accusations.

Earlier this summer we reported on highstakes poker pro, Salman Behbehani, who arrested on suspicion of drug smuggling on the Spanish party island of Ibiza.

Behbehani is an Italian-Kuwaiti national with almost $3.4million in tournament cashes to his name. He was allegedly caught in possession of a huge drugs haul.

Poker player sent to prison for smuggling cocaine to cover high stakes loss

The Spanish Guardia Civil reportedly discovered 1.5kilos of illegal substances in Behbehani’s suitcase, including:

  • 315 grams of cocaine
  • 705 grams of hashish
  • 80 grams of crystal meth
  • 171 grams of the synthetic psychedelic drug 2C-B
  • Amounts of tubici (pink cocaine), marijuana, speed, LSD, ecstasy, magic mushrooms and amylnitrate.

The most famous poker player to be busted on drug charges is Mike “The Mouth” Matusow. He served a 6-month sentence for possession of cocaine to sell.

Poker player sent to prison for smuggling cocaine to cover high stakes loss

Matusow claimed he had unwittingly bought the cocaine for a “friend”. However, that person turned out to be an undercover DEA agent.

Facing a possible ten years’ prison time, Matusow’s celebrity lawyer David Chesnoff managed to get him a plea deal. It saw the infamous pro serve his half-year at the Clark County Detention Center in Las Vegas.

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