Many might have wondered why Bryan Micon, whose Bitcoin-only poker site Seals with Clubs (SwC) had been under legal scrutiny along with the man himself, would voluntarily return to the US this week to face the court on his sole legal charge.
The answer came yesterday, as an extremely lenient sentence now hovers over the individual who might have been looking at a potential 10 years in prison and a $50K fine.
Micon, the former chairman of SwC, has agreed to plead guilty in a move that will most likely avoid any prison time at all. His lawyer Richard Schonfeld, who along with his law partner David Chesnoff is considered to be one of the top criminal defense attorneys in America, made mention on Thursday about the apparent plea deal.
A warrant had been issued for Micon’s arrest in April for one charge of operating an unlicensed interactive gaming system in relation to his SwC activities. The case represents the first time that law enforcement has specifically targeted a Bitcoin gaming operator.
In February Micon complained that his Las Vegas home had been raided by armed police brandishing a warrant from the Nevada Gaming Commission.
According to the 36-year-old poker player, officers broke through his door at 8 am and frog-marched him “half-naked” out onto the lawn. Computers and electronic equipment were confiscated before Micon was released without charge.
Micon subsequently fled to Antigua with his wife and daughter, claiming he had wanted a vacation anyway and railing against what he deemed to be a “police state.”
Demise of SwC
Seals With Clubs was the market-leading Bitcoin-only online poker site until it mysteriously went offline around the time of Micon’s brush with law enforcement, although he insists the two are unrelated.
From the Caribbean, via video blog with his face in shadows after his departure from Las Vegas, he railed against the injustice of a law enforcement tactics used on him, in which, he claimed, that “creativity is often met with guns and handcuffs.”
He also explained that Seal with Clubs was no more. The rest of the management had quit, he said, but he would be resurrecting the site under a new URL, SwCpoker.eu. Player balances from the original site would be returned, he claimed.
Micon initially maintained his innocence regarding the charge against him. He began crowd-sourcing for funds to pay for a defense team, despite the fact that he had, by his own admission, amassed “considerable wealth” from Seals with Clubs due to increases in Bitcoin values over the past few years.
Micon himself reportedly suggested that the site was turning around about a $10-12K profit each month, hardly a dazzling sum by Internet gaming standards.
Now he’s hired the go-to legal team of David Chensoff and Richard Schonfeld. This was the team that represented poker player and former Macau junket operator Paul Phua, who was accused by the FBI of operating a multimillion international sports betting ring from Caesars Palace last summer during World Cup. Last month, Phua left the US a free man, the case against him eviscerated and all evidence dismissed.
Despite the high-powered lawyers, Micon’s case appears to be relatively simple. In accepting a plea bargain, he will complete an as-yet-undetermined probationary period and pay a $25,000 fine, at which point the felony charge will be reduced to a gross misdemeanor. Micon will also forfeit the computers, $900 in cash and 3.0996 bitcoins confiscated during the February raid.
Should the judge not go for the deal, Micon even has the option of withdrawing his guilty plea, said Schonfeld, so it’s a pretty no-down-side arrangement for him.
Micon is due back in court next week.