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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Richard Lee Charged and Headed to Court

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Richard Lee became a familiar name in the poker world after he finished in sixth place at the 2006 World Series of Poker World Championship event. He praised his hometown of San Antonio, Texas at every opportunity and walked away from the tournament quietly with $2,803,851 in prize money. Not long after he returned home, his name would be viewed in another light entirely after police raided Lee's home and seized millions in cash and property based on allegations of bookmaking and purchasing items with the proceeds of a criminal operation.

For nearly a year, Lee's case has been awaiting official charges, and the wait is now over. The San Antonio District Attorney Susan Reed has filed charges against Lee and four others under the negotiated misdemeanor offense of gambling promotion, a charge which can carry a sentence of up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine. The arraignment will take place in a San Antonio courtroom on November 7th.

Reed has also filed an application to confiscate the cash and property seized from all of the homes raided and for the state to retain 80% of the value of the items. Included in this list of items were those primarily taken from Lee's home, i.e. $2.7 million in cash (close to the amount won by Lee at the WSOP months before it was seized), a 2005 Lexus LX 470, a 2005 Mercedes S430, a 2004 Toyota 4Runner, and various electronic and fashion items. The state contends that these items were purchased with proceeds resulting from an illegal bookkeeping operation. The original allegations stemmed from Lee's operation of a Costa Rica-based internet sports betting site called Betbsbnow.com which the D.A. originally claimed was not offshore but being operated from Lee's Texas home.

The D.A. is said to have based part of her investigation on testimonials from informants who claimed that Richard Lee was notorious for conducting the biggest bookmaking operation in San Antonio and that he was referred to as "The Chinaman" in those circles. Some have come forward to corroborate the D.A.'s case, though the lack of solid evidence to back up the case has been sparse.

Lee's attorneys are fighting the application and asking that 100% the property be returned to the men. They are expected to contend that the continued withholding of the seized items is no longer legal if the men are not being charged with illegal bookmaking. However, the plea agreement on the table includes the reduced charges includes terms that allow the men to reclaim only 20% of their possessions.

The other defendants in the case are Lawrence Davenport, Matthew Winslow, Marco Hernandez, and Daniel Ortiz. They are accused of participating in the illegal bookmaking/gambling operations with Lee, and all are receiving the same plea agreement to consider.

Most likely, no further news will be released until the November 7th court date. At that time, Lee will choose whether or not to accept the plea agreement and more details will be released.

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