Lena Evans Leads Class-Action Lawsuit Against PayPal

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A class-action lawsuit accusing digital payment processor PayPal of racketeering for seizing customer funds was filed in California on Friday.

Lena Evans
Lena Evans is one of the lead plaintiffs in a lawsuit alleging PayPal illegally seized customer funds. (Image: WSOP)

Two-time WSOP Circuit ring winner Lena Evans, founder of the non-profit Poker League of Nations (PLON) and CEO of poker tournament organizer Helix Poker, is the lead plaintiff among three people who claim PayPal stole their money. 

The lawsuit accuses PayPal of using its User Agreement policies to arbitrarily freeze and then seize money from accounts for violations that are never clearly explained. 

Bensamochan Law Firm and Schreiber & Schreiber filed the lawsuit in the United States District Court, Northern District of California. Businesspeople Roni Shemtov and Shbadan Akylbekov are the other two plaintiffs. Shemtov had $42,737 seized and Akylbekov, $172,206. The lawsuit seeks triple the damages. 

Freezing and seizing without warning 

In Evan’s situation, the lawsuit alleges PayPal froze $26,984 for 180 days without warning or explanation in November 2020. She used PayPal to help run both PLON and Helix Poker, as well as sell and buy clothes.

In May 2021, PayPal seized the money “without ever telling Ms. Evans why,” reads the lawsuit. The lawsuit claims she never received a response to any of her emails and was unable to speak with a live person, despite several phone calls. 

While Evans didn’t receive any sort of explanation for her predicament, PayPal told the other two plaintiffs they money was seized because they violated portions of its Acceptable Use Policy that’s part of its lengthy User Agreement, according to the lawsuit. Claims of the multifaceted, 37-page complaint are summarized by one line from the filing:

“PayPal’s transactions and practices are illegal, highly questionable and akin to outright theft.”

Sparked by Chris Moneymaker 

About the same time Evans had her money seized by PayPal, the same thing happened to Chris Moneymaker, the 2003 WSOP Main Event champion and current Americas Card Room team pro.

Only telling Moneymaker that he violated the payment’s site’s terms, PayPal seized more than $12,000. Just like Evans, the funds were frozen in the fall after members of his fantasy football league sent their $1,000 fees to Moneymaker, who was acting as the league’s treasurer. Then, 180 days later, PayPal emptied his account.

This infuriated Moneymaker, who hired the Bensamochan Law Firm to sue PayPal while encouraging anyone else who had their money seized by the eBay-owned company to climb on board.

PayPal’s legal department must have taken notice because, 10 days after sending his Tweet encouraging, Moneymaker’s funds simply reappeared in his account. Since he got his money back, Moneymaker is no longer a plaintiff in the case, but that’s not stopping him from trying to fix this perceived wrong. 

Pinned to his Twitter since June 17, 2021: 

Moneymaker’s mentions are loaded with people who claim PayPal treated them the same way and seized funds for violating parts of the User Agreement. Eric Bensamochan, the lead attorney in the suit, wasn’t available for comment.

The lawsuit claims there are likely thousands of victims entitled to remuneration by PayPal, but the plaintiffs can’t know for sure the potential size of the class without information and documents in PayPal’s possession.

How many others were affected?

While Moneymaker and Evans are connected to the world of gambling and poker, Shemtov and Akylbekov are businesspeople who claim PayPal stole money they earned selling wares. In Shemotov’s case, she was told three different reasons her money was seized, including that she was charging too little for her yoga clothing.

The other two reasons PayPal gave — that she was using the same IP address as other users and that she had multiple accounts — are simply not true, according to the lawsuit.

In Akylbekov’s case, PayPal said it was allowed to seize and keep the money because of damages caused by violating portions of the User Agreement, which were not defined.  

All three plaintiffs spell out how PayPal simply ignored their questions and concerns, some of which were submitted in writing to company attorneys. With more than 300 million users, and more than 20 million active merchant accounts, the odds are high that PayPal treated other customers this same way, the lawsuit alleges.

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