Monday, July 17, 2006

U.S. Issues Federal Indictment, Detains BETonSPORTS CEO at Texas Stopover

If you didn't believe that the anti-gambling folks are serious in their zealous attempts to police how the rest of us think and act, another selection of stories from today's newswires ought to make you change your mind.

This one begins back on June 1 of this year, when a U.S. federal court in St. Louis issued a sealed indictment against online gambling entity BETonSPORTS PLC, a firm that many poker players know through the company's smaller BoSPoker division; however, BoS generates the vast majority of its revenues through online sports wagering. Our government's noble indictment named eleven individuals, including BoS founder Gary Stephen Kaplan, who was named on 20 felony counts, and four companies, consisting of BETonSPORTS PLC and three Florida firms that seem to provide subisdiary marketing services.

It is important to know that Kaplan, a U.S. native, was previously arrested in New York on state gambling charges, and subsequently moved his gambling operations, first to Florida, then offshore. So, BoS does have some U.S. roots, despite it now being licensed elsewhere. However, here's where the story gets weird. Yesterday, U.S. officials detained the BoS CEO on a stopover at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The flight originated in the United Kingdom and was scheduled to continue on to Costa Rica, as BoS has interests in both of those locations.

Just one problem: The CEO of the firm isn't Kaplan, it's a man named David Carruthers. And while Carruthers was listed in the U.S. complaint, he's also a British citizen, and BETonSPORTS PLC is a legal, fully licensed, publicly traded UK firm.

Remember, too, that the indictment was sealed, even though the names of all the individuals named were certainly added to our government's "watch" lists --- hence the snaring of Carruthers at DFW. The indictment also seeks $4.75 billion in damages, plus properties associated with the BoS enterprise, and includes a temporary restraining order seeking to prevent BoS from accepting any more bets from American citizens.

One thing that remains unreported is the current status of founder Kaplan's citizenship. Given the nature of BoS's business and publicly traded status, the point is relevant. While it's a surety that there are outstanding warrants against Kaplan from his days as a U.S. citizen, if he has renounced his citizenship and now claims another country as his own, and BETonSPORTS PLC's licensing is subsequent to that change, then yesterday's dubious snatching of Carruthers, a British citizen engaged in a legal British enterprise, can be seen as highest-stakes thuggery on the part of our beloved feds. I'd call it extortion, if not something worse.

As expected, the U.S. court issued a mind-numbing quote on the matter: "Illegal commercial gambling across state and international borders is a crime," U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway of the Eastern District of Missouri said. "This indictment is but one step in a series of actions designed to punish and seize the profits of individuals who disregard federal and state laws."

The precedents that an action like this would set, if successful, are staggering. It means that any action, anywhere in the world, by any citizen in the world, could be boiled down to the most convenient set of circumstances allowing U.S. prosecution. Imagine, if you will, a Norwegian businessman visiting a legal brothel in New Jersey, then being arrested at La Guardia on his way home, because his flight has crossed into a jurisdiction where he's suddenly guilty of soliciting for prostitution. Or imagine a U.S. citizen enjoying --- gasp! --- a toke of legal marijuana in Holland, then being slammed into the can on his return to the States. And don't drink that strong British ale on your next trip to a London pub; some states only 3.2% alcohol in their beer, so you're in trouble yet again. And these are the obvious examples; the loss of freedoms, sadly, is an insidious, slippery slope... and we've long since started the slide.

Again, Carruthers has committed no crime on U.S. soil, but he's being held in U.S. custody because the DoJ believes that its own interests override the rights of all the other citizens of the world, even while those citizens are in their own countries.

Appalling. As I've said elsewhere, no wonder everyone hates us.

So much for the Internet being the entry point to a global community. I find it disgusting to say this, but in America we have found the 'Net Nazis... and they are us. Or try this one: Communist China, meet Communist America. When extremism rules, there really is no difference. David Carruthers isn't the first, but right now he's a political prisoner of the Internet Age.

This is what happens when the zealots are on the ascendancy. If there's any doubt that Goodlatte, Leach and company are to be feared and reviled, then doubt no more.

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