Possible DEA Mugging of Professional Poker Player

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Over at the poker forum Two Plus Two, pro poker player David Peat writes that he was essentially mugged by DEA agents at an airport in Toledo, Ohio Detroit, Michigan.

According to Peat, he and his girlfriend had originally planned to fly back to Las Vegas together after visiting her family. But after purchasing their tickets, Peat decided to fly to L.A. to play in a poker game. He bought a last minute, first-class ticket, and paid in cash.  That apparently was enough to set off red flags.

Peat says he was accosted by several DEA agents, who asked him questions about who he was and where he was going. He told them he was a poker player, and had $15,000 in cash in his pocket. They first let him go, but then chased him down, and told him he’d need to come with them for questioning. Peat says the agents then confiscated all of his money, as well as his $50,000 Rolex watch. He says they gave him a receipt, and told him to expect more information in the mail.

In a separate post, Peat concedes he had a few marijuana possession charges, but the most recent was more than eight years ago. He wasn’t arrested, and the agents didn’t tell him why they were taking his money. The reason for seizing it seems to be little more than he was traveling with a large amount of cash.

If Peat’s account of the incident is accurate, it certainly wouldn’t be unprecedented.

CORRECTION: I spoke with Peat tonight. He was staying in Toledo, but he flew out of Detroit. More later.

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48 Responses to “Possible DEA Mugging of Professional Poker Player”

  1. #1 |  Michael Chaney | 

    seizing = stealing

    We have to get beyond the weasel language – it seems to be a big part in why this is allowed to happen again and again.

    One other thing to note – he was likely turned in by the person who sold him the ticket. Last I saw they got a 10% cut of the loot.

    Willie Jones was an earlier example:

  2. #2 |  Chris K. | 

    His first problem is that HE SPOKE TO THE COPS!

  3. #3 |  V-Man | 

    He should write off the money and the watch. I bet that when he shows up with his receipt, they’ll tell him they have no record or “the evidence seems to have been misplaced.” Meanwhile, the chief goon has a brand new watch and the union’ party cash chest is $15,000 richer.

    Notice how they let him go and they went back after him. It’s very likely that the time between the two confrontations was used to set their story straight and prepare the mugging.

  4. #4 |  Aresen | 

    Jeez, you people talk like the Fourth Amendment still means something.


  5. #5 |  Ben (the other one) | 

    Michael– thanks to the link on the Willie Jones case– it’s a name I haven’t heard for fifteen years. I was the law clerk for Judge (now Sr. Judge) Wiseman whose decision is described in that link, and worked with him on that case, which had been on 60 Minutes.

    The article mentions that one piece of probable cause the judge heavily discounted was a drug-trained dog’s alert on Jones’ currency. Jones’ attorney offered an FBI memo concerning cocaine contamination of currency. The FBI took rubber belts from several random sorting machines at Federal Reserve Banks, rinsed them with acetone, and then analyzed the rinse liquid. The majority had significant levels of cocaine residue, suggesting that bills could get contaminated at the FRBs, and never needed to come into contact with a user or dealer.

    One more interesting war story from that trial: the US offered the testimony of the seizing officer. During his deposition, he had testified that when he stopped Jones near the gate (i.e., past the security screen) he thought Jones reached for bulky item of some sort, and he intercepted his arm, patted him down, and found the currency in a pouch under his shirt. At trial, however, the officer testified that he saw the bulky item, and reached out and patted it. Then we were treated to the circus of the Assistant US Attorney trying to impeach his own witness and get him to testify as he had at deposition. It was pretty funny.

    As I recall, Judge Wiseman’s opinion focused on the fact that the officer had no reasonable fear for his safety, because the security screen had removed any grounds to think that the item might have been a weapon, and in any event, his testimony at trial didn’t mention any concern that Jones was reaching for a weapon at all. The stop-and-frisk was, therefore, unconstitutional.

    You’re right about the circumstances leading to the seizure. My recollection is that the officers testified that they got a call from an American Airlines ticket agent who had been briefed on the profile they were looking for. In Jones’ case, it was a ticket paid in cash with a short layover and little luggage. I think Judge Wiseman’s opinion criticized the elements of the profile as being mutually contradictory, too.

  6. #6 |  Cynical in CA | 

    I expect much outrage to be expressed in the comments on this post.

    The heavy volume will no doubt be attributable to the sensational nature of the story.

    Yet, this outrage goes dormant a day after the story, despite the fact that the State daily commits armed robbery against its subjects in the form of taxation.

    Stolen money is stolen money irregardless of the motive. If they get you to ask the wrong question, they don’t have to worry about the right answer.

  7. #7 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    “Seizing” will be the word of the decade here in the States.

    The Fourth Amendment? Haven’t seen it in years.

  8. #8 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Gambling is a vice. A vice is an activity that marks you as being fair game for persecution. But don’t take my word for it. Ask a prostitute or pornographer. Persecution serves the social function of allowing civilization’s assholes to feel good about themselves. And, as we all know, the DEA is largely staffed by civilization’s leading assholes.

  9. #9 |  The_Chef | 

    We need a robin hood.

    Someone to rob the government and give back to the people. Where’s Ragnar Danneskjöld when a need him?

  10. #10 |  John Jenkins | 

    @ Michael Chaney (#1):

    seizing = stealing

    Not necessarily. Take an example where the police arrest someone who is in possession of stolen property. The police take custody of the property (as evidence) and have “seized” it in Fourth Amendment parlance, but it is clear that the police did not steal the property. Using “seize” instead of “stole” when talking about government is a consequence of the Fourth Amendment protection from “unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S. Const., Am. IV. There is also a potential violation of the Eighth Amendment in a case like this, if Mr. Peat were eventually charged with a crime. See United States v. Bajakajian, 524 U.S. 321 (1998).

    I hope that Mr. Peat does not wait for information in the mail and immediately files an action in the Court of Federal Claims to get his money back. I also hope that everyone who reads this sends a letter (a letter, not an email) to his congressman and his two senators asking them to repeal the civil asset forfeiture laws. (I think mine are tired of hearing from me.)

    @ The_Chef (#9):

    Someone to rob the government and give back to the people.

    That person would be no better than the thieves in the first instance. What we need is a government that doesn’t do things like this, and the only way we get that is by throwing the bums out (that means your incumbent congressman is an asshole too).

    There are people out there who we need to send to Washington, but the present system selects for those who most want to be there. That, alone, should be disqualifying. We need to find the right people, beg them to run for office, and support them when they do. Once the cretins see we’re serious, then we can change things.

  11. #11 |  John Jenkins | 

    Ugh, closing tag .

  12. #12 |  nobahdi | 

    …the State daily commits armed robbery against its subjects in the form of taxation.

    Stolen money is stolen money irregardless of the motive.

    I get it; you’re Cynical. But collecting taxes is not “armed robbery” and “irregardless” is not a word.

  13. #13 |  Aresen | 

    @nobadhi #12

    I’ll grant that taxation can be done by fraud rather than armed robbery.

    Otherwise, we disagress, disirregardlessly.

  14. #14 |  Don | 

    So what would happen if you refused to turn over the money and forced them to arrest you? On what grounds could they even arrest you?

  15. #15 |  Michael Chaney | 

    Ben – a couple more points. First, the goons who stole the money from Willie had no intent of actually giving it back. It wasn’t until his story was picked up by the local news that an attorney took the case pro bono.

    He was turned in by the ticketing agent, and she got 10% of the loot.

    As for the story you relate regarding cocaine residue on money, I’ve discussed that before. Briefly, the entire problem goes away if we use actual scientific method in court cases. Here’s how it would play out using a double-blind study:

    1. The study’s conductor leaves the room, but not before he designates 5 positions on the study table where cash will be put
    2. The suspected drug money is randomly placed, by the defendant, in one of the 5 positions.
    3. The other 5 positions are also populated with cash likewise, with some from the judge, the prosecutor, and some members of the gallery. The defendant chooses the positioning of each person’s cash. The prosecutor and defendant each records the positions chosen for each.
    4. The cash is taken to a separate room, where the study’s conductor is waiting with the drug dog. This is filmed, and perhaps even viewable from the court room in real time. The study’s conductor then notes which bundles of cash the dog “hits” on.
    5. Back in the court room, the judge is easily able to determine, with no bullshit, whether the dog actually hit on *only* the defendant’s money, all the money, or whatever.

    That is actual scientific method. An officer saying “The dog hit on the cash” isn’t, and I am still astounded that Dark Ages-era reasoning is even permissible in a court of law in this day and age.

    And, finally, taxation isn’t robbery. Nor is a valid, legal seizure. Police do it all the time and it’s not a problem.

    In this case, it’s probably just theft. I see nothing in his writeup to believe otherwise. “You’ll get something in the mail” isn’t a proper police procedure.

  16. #16 |  Two--Four | 

    […] you people talk like the Fourth Amendment still means something.”(a commentor at Balko’s place) Jan 29, 09 | 4:06 pm AxeBitesVarious guitars I see floating by, mostly Gibson and mostly eBay. […]

  17. #17 |  steve | 

    @ Michael Chaney

    That would work if the money in the experiment was known to be completely taint-free prior to the current owners possesion. Imagine, if you will, that this poker player won his money from a drug dealer or the person he won it from won it from a drug dealer,etc. This is why the whole idea of testing money is silly. The other way is to make money tracable and we don’t want that, do we?

  18. #18 |  Dave Krueger | 

    This is just another case of the cops teaching people a lesson for their own good. The translation for this instance would go something like this: “Sir, you shouldn’t be traveling with so much cash. Someone might take it away from you. Like this.”

  19. #19 |  John Jenkins | 

    @ Michael Chaney: I would argue that the situation you describe is not an exercise of the scientific method, because drug dogs are known to be unreliable. See llinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405 (2005), Souter, J., dissenting.

    Drug-sniffing dogs and so-called “field tests” are patently unreliable, and cannot be replicated. Real testing would require taking at least three separate samples, having two tested at separate labs, and maintaining the third for verification if the tests of the other two are different. I am, however, quite the hard-liner when it comes to allegedly scientific evidence :-)

  20. #20 |  The Liberty Papers »Blog Archive » Render Unto Caesar Whatever The Hell He Wants | 

    […] a crime? No? Have a reason to carry a lot of cash? Yes? Don’t expect to hang onto it: Over at the poker forum Two Plus Two, pro poker player David Peat writes that he was essentially […]

  21. #21 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #15 Michael Chaney

    He was turned in by the ticketing agent, and she got 10% of the loot.

    This is interesting. I vaguely remember all the hoopla when, soon after 9/11, there was some scheme cooked up to enlist ordinary people to look for suspicious stuff in people’s houses that they go to. I think it was mainly directed at delivery services and meter readers or something. Also, I have heard stories about kids being encouraged to report their parents’ drug use (for their own good, of course). Mostly, suggestions like this catch a lot of flack from the public and media.

    But, nothing gets past a moral stigma like a little cash incentive. All we need is for people to be able to get a cut of the action when they provide the probable cause to seize property the cops wouldn’t otherwise be able to take (assuming such property still exists). If ticket agents are getting a cut of the action in cases like this, then it’s only a matter of time before such a useful “crime fighting” innovation is universally adopted by all law enforcement to open the door to wealth heretofore unheard of.

    “Hello, is this the Suspicious Wealth Hotline? My neighbor just got a new Mercedes. I don’t think he really makes that kind of money. How long before I can expect a check for my share of the take?”

  22. #22 |  John Jenkins | 

    @ Dave Krueger (#19): The IRS has the authority to grant rewards based on amounts collected if a person provides information that leads to collection. See IRS Form 211.

  23. #23 |  Ben (the other one) | 

    Michael (#15): The issue in the Jones case (as I recall, and it’s getting to be a long time ago) was whether the dog sniff contributed probable cause to the initial determination that the money was involved in narcotics trafficking (and the judge disregarded it, reasoning that it proved nothing at the time it was conducted); I don’t think the question was the admissibility or weight of the dog sniff at the trial.

    I’m not defending the US’s position in the Jones case– far from it. I think Judge Wiseman got it right when he ordered the US to give the money back.

    Don (#14): What would happen if you refused to turn over the money? I suspect that the police would, at the least, handcuff you and take the money forcibly. I am not sure whether they would bring a “resisting seizure” charge, but they probably could. In most of these cases that I’ve heard of (i.e., where there is a civil forfeiture without a criminal charge), the agents detain the person, seize the money, and then release them. They could make that happen whether you cooperate or not. I suspect that police would say that 99 times out of 100, the person never files a claim because they know the money was, in fact, the instrumentality or fruits of a crime, and they’re just happy they didn’t get arrested. That’s the police version.

    Again, I’m not defending it.

  24. #24 |  Bill Cooke | 

    “Stolen money is stolen money irregardless of the motive.”

    There is certainly a big difference between a legislature out in the open passing a tax law that effects everyone, and some armed goons chasing down some poor fellow in the airport and taking all of his cash just because they have a hunch.

  25. #25 |  Cynical in CA | 

    “Where’s Ragnar Danneskjöld when a need him?”

    Kicking it with John Galt, last I saw.

  26. #26 |  Cynical in CA | 

    #12 | nobahdi | January 29th, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    “…the State daily commits armed robbery against its subjects in the form of taxation. Stolen money is stolen money irregardless of the motive.” — Cynical in CA

    “I get it; you’re Cynical. But collecting taxes is not “armed robbery” and “irregardless” is not a word.” — Nobahdi

    That taxes are armed robbery is a fact, irrespective of your opinion, nobahdi.

  27. #27 |  Cynical in CA | 

    #22 | John Jenkins | January 29th, 2009 at 5:51 pm
    @ Dave Krueger (#19):

    “The IRS has the authority …”

    Legal, yes.

    Moral, no.

  28. #28 |  Cynical in CA | 

    #24 | Bill Cooke | January 29th, 2009 at 6:28 pm
    “Stolen money is stolen money irregardless of the motive.”

    “There is certainly a big difference between a legislature out in the open passing a tax law that effects everyone, and some armed goons chasing down some poor fellow in the airport and taking all of his cash just because they have a hunch.”

    The only practical difference (there is no moral difference) is that the legislature is capable of larceny so grand it dwarfs your latter example.

    “No man’s life, liberty or fortune is safe while our legislature is in session.” — Benjamin Franklin

    Now, how was that again, Bill?

  29. #29 |  supercat | 

    Legal, yes. Moral, no.

    Which is significantly different from the totalitarian anarchists involved in many seizure cases: Legal, no. Moral, no. Able-to-be-gotten-away-with, yes.

  30. #30 |  Andrew Williams | 

    Totalitarian anarchists=psychopathic personalities.


  31. #31 |  supercat | 

    Totalitarian anarchists=psychopathic personalities.

    Many sheeple have a conditioned blindness that obscures any faults in their heroes. Their heroes think they’re better than ordinary people, and the sheeple, believing that the heroes must indeed be better, see nothing wrong with that. The sheeple’s eyes aren’t going to be opened by accusations that their heroes are psychopaths.

    I use the term “totalitarian anarchist” in the hopes that the sheeple will concentrate their mental defenses on those aspects of their leaders which are least defensible. If the Great Leader is accused of being a totalitarian anarchist, people will say that of course he’s not above the law, and he isn’t acting like he is (because that’s what they believe), but their eyes might be a little bit open when the impossible happens and their leader in fact fails to abide by the law.

    I really don’t know the best way to penetrate Liberal Mind Fog. I do know that I used to be a leftist before I came to realize how the Left manipulates people’s blindness, but unfortunately I haven’t figured out any receipe to remove LMF in others.

  32. #32 |  John Jenkins | 

    @ Cynical (#27): I was not taking a position on the legitimacy of the IRS bounties, I was just pointing out that the situation he describes already exists under current law. Of course, there are hundreds of local Crimestoppers programs across the country that do the same thing for ordinary street crime.

  33. #33 |  IrishMike | 

    Irregardless IS a word.

  34. #34 |  Michael Chaney | 

    Yes, irregardless IS a word (though safari is giving it the red squiggle), but the meaning is the exact opposite of what the context above would suggest.

  35. #35 |  Michael Chaney | 

    Potentially good news in the crazy Chattanooga police officer who assaulted an elderly Walmart greeter:


    See also the news story in the upper right.

    Freeman (the rogue officer) got 4 weeks off unpaid, plus he must take more training for use of force, anger management, and verbal judo.

    My take:

    Here we go again with weasel language. Knocking a person off their feet is assault, not “use of force”.

    Good news, the TBI is involved, and apparently they’re talking to the DA about possible charges.

  36. #36 |  Dave Krueger | 

    If the Walmart greeter had been bigger and pushed the cop down, you can bet your ass he wouldn’t have gotten off with a four week suspension from work.

  37. #37 |  billy-jay | 


    “There is certainly a big difference between a legislature out in the open passing a tax law that effects everyone…”

    When was the last time a legislature passed a tax law that affected everyone?

    Equally, I mean.

  38. #38 |  Don Cordell | 

    If you go to http://www.DonCordellforPresident.com/65.htm you will read more about how Californian police smile all the way to the bank. The cops brag about how they take advantage of citizens, because citizens feel they won’t win in court anyway, as cops lie all the time, and judges believe them. Until we start fighting back in this nation, in the next 5 years we will be under Military control, to protect us from Foreign evil. Citizens will accept this, because we are told, “The Government is protecting us, but 100% control of our communities”. I’m still trying to fight the election of Illegal Alien Barack Obama, and it’s time to fire every member of the Supreme Court for refusing to do their job. We have treason in this nation, unfortunately its in Washington DC, and ever police station in this nation.

  39. #39 |  ZappaCrappa | 

    #12 | nobahdi | January 29th, 2009 at 4:30 pm
    …the State daily commits armed robbery against its subjects in the form of taxation.

    Stolen money is stolen money irregardless of the motive.

    I get it; you’re Cynical. But collecting taxes is not “armed robbery” and “irregardless” is not a word.

    Yes it is.

    Main Entry: ir·re·gard·less
    Pronunciation: \?ir-i-?gärd-l?s\
    Function: adverb
    Etymology: probably blend of irrespective and regardless
    Date: circa 1912
    nonstandard : regardless
    usage Irregardless originated in dialectal American speech in the early 20th century. Its fairly widespread use in speech called it to the attention of usage commentators as early as 1927. The most frequently repeated remark about it is that “there is no such word.” There is such a word, however. It is still used primarily in speech, although it can be found from time to time in edited prose. Its reputation has not risen over the years, and it is still a long way from general acceptance.

  40. #40 |  Mario | 

    It’s possible he could have refused to consent to anything, thereby forcing them to arrest him, for which they had no cause.

    Maybe he fell victim to their bluff?

  41. #41 |  Ben (the other one) | 

    Mario (#40): OK, I looked it up. 18 USC 2231 provides:

    Assault or resistance
    (a) Whoever forcibly assaults, resists, opposes, prevents, impedes, intimidates, or interferes with any person authorized to serve or execute search warrants or to make searches and seizures while engaged in the performance of his duties with regard thereto or on account of the performance of such duties, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both[.]

    The current fine for individuals is up to $250,000.
    Like it or not, the courts have upheld the rights of officers to seize property under circumstances like these, so I would be very surprised if they did not view resistance to such a seizure as a violation of this criminal law.
    If you don’t like it, the only fix at this point is a legislative one.

  42. #42 |  Kenneth W. Royce | 

    He wasn’t required to any of their questions, and he
    talked himself into that seizure.

    In a contact or detention, you may refuse to answer
    (which does not in itself create probable cause to arrest).

    Here is the correct mantra:

    “I don’t have to answer that. I’d like to be on my way now,
    so am I free to go?”

    If you don’t know your rights, then you effectively have none!
    A must-buy book on the subject:



  43. #43 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    Cool, the DEA. A badge. Chicks. Political intrigue.
    And you get to seize people’s money.
    I have been looking like crazy for a job like this.
    Where do I sign up?

  44. #44 |  thetruth | 

    The dea has no constitutional authority. At some point a militia is going to need to remind them of the will of the american people and then we can clap as we bury the bodies.

  45. #45 |  Cynical In CA | 

    “@ Cynical (#27): I was not taking a position on the legitimacy of the IRS bounties …”

    No worries, JJ. I was just adapting your premise to a larger issue. Nothing personal — anyone who posted about the IRS might have had their words parsed by me.

  46. #46 |  Michael Chaney | 

    while engaged in the performance of his duties with regard thereto or on account of the performance of such duties

    And this is the way out – stealing people’s money and watches isn’t part of the DEA’s duties. This, again, is why we have to start calling it what it is instead of using terms like “confiscation”, “use of force”, etc.

  47. #47 |  Starchild | 

    @Michael Chaney (#46) – I agree, language matters, and there are too many euphemisms employed to cloak government aggression in friendlier language. I would also suggest we not refer to the DEA’s “duties” as if enforcing what individuals can and cannot put into their own bodies were in any way a legitimate line of work.

  48. #48 |  publius |