Group says poker winnings frozen

WASHINGTON -- An advocacy group for online poker said
Tuesday that the federal government has frozen more than $30
million in the accounts of payment processors that handle the
winnings of thousands of online poker players.

The Justice Department has long maintained that Internet
gambling is illegal, a view that the poker group challenges.

The Poker Players Alliance told The Associated Press that the
U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York instructed
three banks to freeze the accounts.

Documents obtained by the AP show that a judge in the district
issued a seizure warrant last week for an account at a Wells Fargo
bank in San Francisco, and that a federal prosecutor told a bank in
Arizona to freeze an account.

In a letter dated Friday and faxed to Alliance Bank of Arizona,
the prosecutor said that accounts held by payment processor Allied
Systems Inc. are subject to seizure and forfeiture "because they
constitute property involved in money laundering transactions and
illegal gambling offenses." The letter was signed by Arlo
Devlin-Brown, the assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District
of New York.

In another letter faxed the same day, Devlin-Brown asks that the
bank treat the funds "as legally seized" by the FBI, saying that
the government has probable cause that the gambling payments of
U.S. residents had been directed to offshore illegal Internet
gambling businesses.

A spokeswoman at the Southern District declined to comment.

John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance,
called the government's move an "unprecedented action" against
online poker players.

In a letter Monday night to Devlin-Brown, Pappas said that the
funds belong to the alliance's members, and requested that his
group be notified and given the opportunity to be heard regarding
attempts to seize the frozen funds.

"The PPA will pursue every legal course available to ensure
that poker players' funds are not seized and their right to play
poker online is protected," he wrote.