SealsWithClubs’ Bryan Micon to Return to US, Face Bitcoin-based Charge
Former SealsWithClubs Chairman Bryan Micon has agreed to return to the United States to face a single count of operating an unlicensed interactive gaming system in the state of Nevada. Micon’s return to the US is scheduled for next week, according to a report from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, citing state court records.
Micon, who served as the public face of the Bitcoin-based online poker following its debut in late 2011, relocated to Antigua just days after a well publicized raid on his Las Vegas apartment. The raid was directed under the direction of Nevada gaming officials, who seized virtually all of the electronic equipment at that time.
The original SealsWithClubs Poker closed its virtual doors just days after the raid that targeted Micon, and other alleged (and unnamed) investors were stated to have dropped their financial interest in SealsWithClubs. However, within days of arriving in Antigua, Micon relaunched a new Bitcoin-based online poker site, SWCpoker.eu, while simultaneously decrying the armed raid at his former Vegas residence.
SWCpoker.eu remains in operation, though it is unknown whether Micon continues to control the site. Micon himself has imposed an informal media blackout on himself following the issuing of the Nevada warrant, directing most questions about his case to his attorneys, the prominent and successful law firm Chesnoff & Schonfeld.
If convicted on the single charge, Micon could face a $50,000 fine and as much as ten years in prison. However, it appears that a more lenient plea deal is already in the works; according to the latest LVRJ update, Micon will be released on his own recognizance after being booked on the single unlicensed gambling enterprise count.
Nevada prosecutors might have faced several uncertainties in the case, assuming that a plea deal will soomn be reached and that the case won’t go to trial. First, Bitcoins are a virtual pseudo-currency that do not exist in any tangible form, other than for ephemeral bits of computerized information. Second, the nature of the SealsWithClubs site itself, as with many Bitcoin-based businesses, provided a certain level of anonymity to the site’s players; SealsWithClubs literally did not know the specific location of the players who used the site.
Third, there may not have been much in the way of direct operation linkage between Micon’s computers, the information therein, and the information about SealsWithClubs itself that investigators were able to gather. Some of the information released by Nevada officials after the late-April issuance of the arrest warrant included at least one inference to Micon’s SealsWithClubs involvement, rather than direct information. That was the revelation that Micon at one point sought to purchase the troubled and now-failed Lock Poker site from its founder, Jen Larson.
Wrote Micon to Larson on Skype, in a quote since widely published: “Hi Jennifer, I’m interested in buying the Lock Poker brand and all its software assets. You can give me a quick google and see that I started SealsWithClubs.eu in 2011 and amassed a considerable wealth with the increase in Bitcoin price. I plan to relaunch the brand and make all players whole. I consider Lock Poker like Chrysler of the early 90’s. It’s a strong brand that needs a turn-around.” Larson seemingly turned down that offer, among others, and she and other Lock owners eventually absconded with between $15 and $25 million in estimated and unrefunded player balances.
Micon’s presumptive assets for purchasing Lock Poker were likely Bitcoin-based themselves. A Bitcoin enthusiast since the virtual currency’s earliest days, Micon is reputed to have bought thousands of the virtual coins at paltry rates, then watched as Bitcoin’s price skyrocketed to — at one brief point — more than $2,000 per BTC. Today, a single virtual Bitcoin can be purchased for about $240, a level at which the currency has hovered in recent months.
Micon also sought to raise money for his planned defense via online startup-investment site GoFundMe. In May, following the defense fund’s creation, Micon reported raising just over $4,000 of a hoped-for $100,000 goal. However, later last month, Micon surfaced on Twitter to announce that GoFundMe had blocked that fundraising effort. Wrote Micon, “For reasons they will not disclose GoFundMe has stopped funding me.” Micon has since ceased posting on all social media, pending the apparent resolution of his case.