Aug 14 2010

Albuquerque Man Will Play Poker to Avoid Jail Time

written by: John under News, Poker Law Comments: Comments Off

In a strange bit of news, 59 year old Samuel McMaster has been allowed by a New Mexico judge to play poker to pay off his debt and avoid jail time for multiple counts of fraud. McMaster was convicted earlier of defrauding 20 individuals by selling them unregistered securities – totaling 44 counts of fraud and a single count of racketeering. With more than $400,000 fraudulently obtained from his clients, McMaster would be facing as many as 549 years behind bars. McMaster has shown some poker prowess in the past by finishing in the money at the Bellagio for a little more than $12,550. Beyond that, McMaster is a relatively unknown poker player.

However, McMaster will need to win a great deal more than $12,000 in order to clear his debt and avoid prison time. Over the next six months, McMaster will need to play poker to win at least $7,500 each month and make regular payments to his victims. If he misses more than one payment, he will be required to immediately begin a 12 year sentence in jail. Playing poker and making all of the payments over the next 6 months does not necessarily mean that McMaster can avoid jail time altogether. However, making the payments on time will likely convince the judge that he is serious about paying back the money that he stole. This could result in a reduced sentence or simple restitution and probation for his crimes.

McMaster’s attorneys secured this plea bargain by arguing that, since he had been banned from ever participating in the securities business again, he had been playing poker as his primary source of income. In this way, McMaster was simply doing his primary job. The judge agreed with attorneys after they noted that the IRS accepted real money poker as a taxable income.

As part of the plea bargain, the judge also agreed to reduce the more than 500 year sentence to a maximum of 12 years behind bars. At the end of the six months, McMaster will again go before the New Mexico judge for sentencing based on his performance in repayment. Even making all 6 payments on time will not guarantee that McMaster is in any better position than when he started. He will not receive any seed money from the state but can earn additional income from other sources of revenue. This rare verdict by the judge was agreed upon by prosecutors and cannot be appealed.

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