Poker pros including Ari Engel and Daniel Negreanu have taken to Twitter to report fears that travelling with huge sums of cash could be a serious problem after recent reports that police and DEA officers have been confiscating money…
For the first time in my life- I had a sweat at the Asheville airport yesterday where I was pulled aside for additional screening since I had over 10k cash on me. I was lucky to be able show tax forms to prove where the money was from, but was not a fun experience. Take care yall https://t.co/T0DQxzXdba
— Ari Engel (@AriEngelPoker) December 7, 2021
Ppoker pros afraid of travelling with lots of cash
The story shared in the tweet by WPT Director Matt Savage saw a 25-year-old woman from Chicago have more than $106k in cash confiscated while on a layover at Dallas Love Field Airport.
A sniffer dog uncovered the cash in two large bubble envelopes and – under “civil asset forfeiture” laws – police confiscated the money. The woman, however, was not charged and allowed to leave. That’s where the scary part of civil forfeiture comes in.
It is quite common for poker players in the US to travel with large sums of cash. However, if you are stopped by police and they decide to take your money, there is little you can do except take the legal route to have it returned.
As Ari Engel explained: “It’s not illegal but police can seize your money with no proof of wrongdoing just a suspicion…then you need to prove that the money is ‘kosher’. Big hastle (sic) and could be expensive.”
The discussion soon had poker players sharing their near misses and even horror stories when dealing with the authorities while carrying wads of cash.
Daniel Negreanu, no stranger to wielding bricks of cash on High Stakes Poker, shared his run in with the law…
Once in Miami airport I fully declared cash that I had, police searched my bag, let me through.
A DEA agent speaks to me before getting on plane.
I sit on plane, they pull me off and there are 16 officers in my face, a few who even recognized me.
— Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker) December 8, 2021
Daniel Negreanu got checked by the police at the airport
Daniel added: “I think it was like $70k. It’s not illegal. I filled out the paperwork and declared every penny but was treated like a criminal nonetheless.”
David “Viffer” Peat was another well-known pro who was subject to the arbitrary swoops by DEA and police.
“They yanked me off a flight out of Detroit, took 7k and my Rolex, took me 90 days to get back. No receipt no charges no nothing, Lawyer said if I hadn’t responded in 30-60 days they auto forfeit it.”
A huge case that made it all the way to the supreme court involved professional gamblers and poker players Gina Fiore and Keith Gipson, who had $97,000 taken from them as they landed in Atlanta from San Juan.
Despite explaining they were professional gamblers, and showing IDs and receipts from hotels and casinos, DEA agents took their cash and as reported: “denied their request … for taxi fare upon their arrival” at their final destination.
Although the money was later returned – initially offered with the proviso that Fiore wouldn’t raise a legal claim – Fiore later sued the main DEA agent involved in the seizure.
Fiore (pictured below next to Jennifer Tilly) explained at the time: “Eventually they said we could get our money back if we took a lie detector test. Fuck them, they were trying to freeroll us. We said no.”
Further poker pros warning fellow players
She added: “The reason we sued after we got our funds back was to prove a point, to put another case on the record that you can’t just take someone’s money, period. It’s already legal to carry any amount you want within the US, but people still get freerolled all the time by DEA agents, cops, etc.”
Naturally, fighting drug crime and money laundering is a laudable cause. But with the seized money being spent on further law enforcement it has led to many cases where the authorities have been accused of deliberately targeting innocent people.
It's not illegal. It's simply treated as if it were under the flimsy pretext that it's probably drug money, and then "forfeited" to boost police department budgets. This has been a problem for a long time. https://t.co/QY2HzgTfVt
— Chris 🇺🇸🏳️🌈🏴☠️ (@JesparDalVar) December 7, 2021
The safe answer for poker players? Try not to carry sums of cash is the obvious one. Having proof of your profession and winnings will help, and a good lawyer on speed dial too!
Terms and conditions apply. New customer offer and 18+ only. Should you require help regarding your betting pattern, please visit www.begambleaware.org