Federal authorities in Maryland have been cracking down on online gambling for several years now ("The Ghost Hand," Feature, March 24), seizing tens of millions of dollars from bank accounts held by U.S. companies alleged to have facilitated the global movement of illegal internet gambling proceeds on behalf of foreign-based web sites. Since 2008, though, when the probe netted money-laundering charges against two men, no additional defendants have come to light. That changed on May 19 with the filing of gambling and money-laundering charges against a Missouri man, Kenneth Wienski.
The complaint against Wienski provides new insight into the investigation's details, which have remained largely secret because judges have granted prosecutors' requests to seal documents supporting many of the seizures.
Wienski is accused of helping to concoct an online gambling payment-processing scheme that hid the true nature of the transactions by moving funds through a medical-billing company and a check-processing company where he worked. But much of the 12-page complaint against Wienski lays out a broad-brush history of the Maryland online gambling investigation since it began in 2006, shortly after then-President George Bush signed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which prohibits the facilitation of internet gambling-related transactions in the United States.
Included in the Wienski complaint are short explanations of the seizures of money from the payment-processing companies JBL Services, ZipPayments, and Electracash, all of which are alleged to have participated in money transfers on behalf of large online gambling web sites. Notably absent, though, are any references to the 2008 charges against the two prior defendants-Edward Courdy of California and Michael Garone of Georgia-who were tied to those companies in prior court filings involving the seizure and forfeiture of gambling-related proceeds. The cases against Courdy and Garone have since disappeared from the court record without explanation, so the status of the charges against them remains unknown.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Maryland declined to comment for this article. Attempts to locate Wienski and ask him for comment were unsuccessful. The court docket in the case does not list a lawyer representing Wienski, and indicates he has not yet had a court appearance, nor is one scheduled.
The Wienski complaint also describes how confidential informants have been used in the investigation, which has targeted payment processors working on behalf of web sites including Bodog, Pokerstars, Full Tilt, and Absolute Poker. One informant, referred to as CI-3, "had been personally involved in processing gambling payouts" for each of those sites, and "worked in conjunction with Electracash to process collections and payouts of gambling money," the complaint states.
Electracash's bank records, the complaint continues, "also showed transactions with accounts in the name of HMD, Inc. and Forshay Enterprises," which are California companies. Their incorporation records show they are associated with a man named James Davitt. These two companies, too, have had money in their bank accounts seized by Maryland investigators. Attempts to locate and contact Davitt for comment have been unsuccessful.
Two other informants, CI-4 and CI-5, were interviewed by investigators in March of this year, the complaint continues, and "are both familiar with the activities of HMD" and another company called SNR, which is described as a "fake medical billing company." The two informants explained that "HMD handled check payouts of gambling winnings and another company called Diversified Check Solutions used the SNR accounts to handle the . . . collections from gamblers." The informants' assertions, the complaint continues, were "corroborated by the SNR bank records, which show transfers to and from Diversified in Missouri."
CI-4 and CI-5 went on to explain to investigators that "James Davitt was running HMD and Forshay Enterprises while these businesses were processing the gambling funds," and that "Davitt's main contact at Diversified was Kenneth Wienski, who is the Executive Officer of Diversified Check Solutions" near St. Louis, Mo. "In conversations between Davitt and Wienski and others" that occurred in July and August of 2009, the complaint states, "it was openly discussed that Diversified would be processing gambling funds, and that there was a need for a fake medical billing company to cover these activities."
In return for helping to set up the scheme, the complaint continues, Wienski asked Davitt for a "side payment"; the amount eventually came to $75,000, "including a check in the amount of $12,500 payable to Wienski's wife, Charlotte."
Diversified Checking Solutions' managing partner, Sam Ackley, issued a written statement to City Paper "regarding former employee Kenneth Wienski." In full, the statement reads: "We are cooperating fully with law enforcement authorities. Because the case is pending, we cannot make any further comment."Kenneth Wienski Complaint