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August 8, 2010

"Judge to fraudster: Play poker or go to prison"

The title of this post is the evocative (and a bit inaccurate) headline for this report of a novel term of a state sentence of a white-collar criminal who is also a professional poker player.  Here are the details:

As criminal punishments go, this one's a royal flush. A convicted scam artist in Albuquerque has been given a novel order by the judge sentencing him: Go play poker.

Samuel McMaster, Jr., a former insurance agent and poker player, pleaded guilty to 26 felony charges, including securities fraud, in a New Mexico courtroom last week, reported KOB TV. He was accused of bilking investors of their money, and using at least some of the proceeds to fund his poker playing.

"The financial records showed a lot of withdrawals from ATM machines at different casinos and we have lots of evidence to show he likes to play poker,” prosecutor Phyllis H. Bowman said.

McMaster faces up to 12 years in prison, but the judge agreed to the defense lawyer's request for a unique punishment. The judge suspended the sentence for six months, to give McMaster a chance to pay back some of the $440,000 he took from investors.

If McMaster can consistently pay $7,500 per month to his victims for the next six months, he will face a reduced prison sentence. And to make it possible for him to earn that kind of cash, the judge has allowed him to travel out of state to play in poker tournaments.

August 8, 2010 at 11:45 PM | Permalink


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I am all for alternative punishment schemes, especially ones that would bring about some restitution to the victims. However, let me play devil's advocate here- replace the securities fraud defendant with a burglar; instead of $440,000 worth of damages, let's assume $10,000. Would a judge be willing to let the latter defendant stay out of prison in order to work as a heavy equipment operator in order to pay restitution, all while holding out the prospect of a lighter sentence if he met his monthly restitution goal for 6 months?

How many people, with a straight face, can say they believe the judge in my hypothetical would accede to such a punishment request?

Posted by: Justin | Aug 9, 2010 1:25:13 AM

Is this the same judge made his son smoke a whole box of cigars after we caught the poor kid smoking?

Posted by: tsw | Aug 9, 2010 10:25:53 AM

This alternative punishment is inane as it valorizes the very conduct that seemingly stoked the criminal activity in the first instance. Will the Court also supply him with a "stake" to get started.

Posted by: mjs | Aug 9, 2010 11:13:31 AM

I thought the plea bargain was a contract. I thought that a judge could not order specific performance except in the case of real property or unique chattel.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 10, 2010 12:06:00 AM

I think this is a novel way of punishing someone and quite honestly it's a little refreshing to see such inventiveness from a judge! incidentally, I love playing multiplayerpoker via the net and if anyone has any useful tips for a newbie player they would be gratefully received...

Fantastic post - one to share around the table at family dinner time that's for sure!

Posted by: Holly | Sep 19, 2010 3:32:57 PM

This is not the appropriate place for this discussion. The court of law you have summoned me to is the correct place. There is no reason that the readers of this fine Phoenix publication need to be subjected to it. I just wanted to make sure that anyone reading Chad's opinions were aware of his role in your operation since he neglected to represent himself properly.

Posted by: Online Poker Rooms | Oct 20, 2010 12:34:35 AM

One of the limitations of H.R. 2267, the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act, is that any business, entity, or corporation who has broken state or federal gambling laws will not be entitled to a license under the law.

Posted by: Titan Poker Coupon Code | Oct 21, 2010 12:17:55 AM

Yeah, that seems like a real brain-dead solution - making that much a month playing poker isn't easy, and I wonder what he's using for his starting bankroll anyhow...

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Posted by: William Hill Poker | Oct 29, 2010 12:24:09 AM

I Think it’s beautiful, because it demonstrate a very academic-focused attitude. Preserving the honesty of the academic system seems to be a lead, although frankly disallow repaid ads for such a service seems a flimsy response.

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