DOJ Files Fugitive Disentitlement Action Against PokerStars
Legal skirmishes in the “Black Friday” case of United States v. PokerStars, et. al. continued last week when federal attorneys filed a fugitive disentitlement motion against PokerStars, and also asked the case’s presiding judge, Leonard B. Sand, to stay PokerStars’ motions to dismiss civil actions against the company.
The fugitive disentitlement doctrine allows courts to bar claims by defendants who refuse to appear fully to defend their claims or themselves in ongoing civil or criminal matters.
The government’s specific target in the case is PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg, who faces separate criminal charges, including bank and wire fraud and money laundering offenses.
Scheinberg was described in the latest brief as having “chosen not to to return to the United States to face those charges,” though Scheinberg, currently residing in the Isle of Man, has presumably not entered the US in several years.
Nonetheless, the fugitive disentitlement statute does appear to apply to primary officials of a company such as PokerStars that is also facing civil proceedings, hence its use for that purpose in this case.
The filing against PokerStars and Scheinberg continues with a rehashing of the general complaints against the company. These include both the creation of phony websites and processing entries designed to make players’ PokerStars deposits look like non-gambling transactions, and PokerStars’ involvement with the SunFirst bank fiasco, in which that financial institution received investments in exchange for processing transactions on behalf of several US-facing sites.
Assuming that Judge Sand rules in favor of the DOJ’s motion, two brief legal windows would open: a 90-day window for expedited discovery to occur relevant to the latest motion, and a subsequent 30-day window to file for a summary judgment. Such a judgment would likely extinguish PokerStars’ claims to funds currently held under seizure order by the United States.