Cash, crypto, house seized from alleged illegal streamer
A 28-year-old man from Newport, Oregon, whose lawyer described him as a “professional poker player”, has had well over US $4m in cash, cryptocurrency and a near-seaside home seized by US agents. The raid was part of a years-long investigation into an illicit subscription-based streaming service that generated millions of dollars in revenue.
The sites in question operated from 2013 through 2018 and included domains with names including Noobroom, Superchillin, Movietv.to and Sit2play.com. The sites sold streaming subscriptions to videos offered in open violation of US copyright laws.
Talon V White, of Newport, saw a huge stockpile of assets seized as part of two separate claims filed in recent months in the US District of Oregon federal court in connection with the illegal streaming services.
In the first case, filed in November 2018, the court ruled in favor of seizure of a home in Newport, on central Oregon’s Pacific Coast. In the second case, filed on May 7, 2019, agents “arrested” and sought the seizure of more than $3.9m, either held in bank accounts belonging to a business entity operated by White, along with hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of various cryptocurrencies.
For as-yet-uncertain reasons, White was not arrested in connection with either seizure case, despite the video piracy theoretically rising to a felony copyright violation. White was also not named in initial reports on the seizures, but was listed in more recent reports about the cash-asset forfeiture.
Instead of being arrested, and not being listed as a defendant, White has been forced to file as a claimant to protest the seizures. He has already done so in the first seizure, involving the Oregon home, and is facing a deadline to do the same in the cash-and-crypto case.
Attorney claims pro poker career
White’s attorney, a Texas-based white-collar-crimes counselor named Rain Minns, claimed to Oregon news outlet KOIN that White is a professional poker player.
White indeed has just over $100,000 in recorded poker-tournament cashes over the past seven years, including making the final two tables of a tourney at the 2018 World Series of Poker. However, $100,000 in winnings is not indicative of a pro poker career, and most of White’s known cashes have come in events at smallish tribal casinos in Oregon.
Whether White has earned more than that in cash games or online is unknown, as is the extent to which White used funds from the allegedly illicit streaming service to fund his poker efforts. The 2018 WSOP payday, worth more than US $20,000, marked the only time White has ever cashed in a live poker tournament with a buy-in over $1,500.
As part of White’s defense, Minns has asserted that the seizures themselves were unjust and illegal, and she plans to raise First, Fifth, and Eighth Amendment arguments on White’s behalf.
Streaming services ran for years
According to affidavits submitted by IRS Special Agent Keith Druffel, US authorities first received a tip from San Francisco-based PayPal about possible infringing streaming sites. Those tips led to the discovery of the Noobroom family of sites, which offered multitudes of movies, TV series and other content for free (via a slow connection), or for faster streaming for a monthly subscription fee.
Hundreds of thousands of subscriptions priced at US $9.99 and up were processed, first through Paypal, and later through Stripe (another online payment processor) and other online services.
The IRS agent testified that $5.9m had passed through a single Stripe account belonging to White, and those and other subscription payments eventually made their way into physical bank accounts controlled by White, including several at a Nevada JPMorgan Chase bank.
Federal agents soon notified the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which verified that many MPAA-registered films were among the pirated films available on White’s sites. The MPAA sent White multiple cease-and-desist orders, all of which were ignored.
The MPAA also opened at least one secret account on White’s sites, and was thus able to track the illicit streaming service as it moved from one domain to another. For instance, when several noobroom domains were shuttered, White allegedly just moved the operation to a newer domain, superchillin.com. He then notified his customer base about the move via e-mail, unaware that the secret MPAA account was among the recipients.
No apparent laundering
As IRS Agent Druffel described it: “Approximately, five days after the MPAA sent the cease-and-desist letter to Noobroom, the MPAA received an email to its undercover subscription at Noobroom. The email advised that user accounts had been moved to a new website, www.superchillin.com.”
As for the volume White allegedly generated from the pirated videos, Druffel declared: “In 2018, he was averaging revenue over $500,000 per month. In 2017, White received over $2.2m. In 2016, White received over $1m in revenue, and in 2014 and 2015, White received on average about $400,000 a year in revenue.”
White made little attempt to launder the money beyond transferring it from the online channels such as Stripe into his own bank accounts, and he paid for the Newport home with a single wire transfer directly from one of those accounts.