Joe Sebok

Two Sentenced in Joe Sebok Nude Photo Extortion Plot

Joe SebokPoker player, one-time poker media mogul, and former media and operations consultant for UltimateBet (UB) Joe Sebok resurfaced in the news in an unexpected way yesterday in connection with the sentencing hearing of two men charged with attempting to extort money from him with threats of publicizing nude photographs and other private information.

Tyler Schrier and Keith James Hudson had previously pleaded guilty to crimes associated with the plot, and on Monday received their sentences. Schrier’s crimes include conspiracy, extortion, and unauthorized access to a protected computer, while Hudson admitted to unauthorized access to a protected computer for purposes of financial gain. A third defendant, Ryan Finney, has also pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the case and faces sentencing at a later date.

The Los Angeles Times reported on yesterday’s hearing in which U.S. District Court Judge James Otero sentenced Schrier to 42 months in prison. Schrier’s plea also included the admission of other crimes associated with illegally accessing email accounts, successfully extorting money from other poker players, and stealing money from online poker accounts with information obtained via private emails. Hudson, meanwhile, was sentenced to two years in prison for his involvement in the scheme targeting Sebok.

Sebok told Judge Otero that he and others had their lives “altered and shattered in irreparable ways” because of the defendants’ actions. Sebok’s testimony indicated the scheme had significantly damaged his ability to continue his career in poker, in particular referencing his role as a site-sponsored player.

“I was no longer able to maintain my then-current level of participation in the poker industry, representing the brands that I had been previously, as well as destroying my ability to do so with new companies moving forward,” explained Sebok.  (Reuters reports Sebok’s comments were made public via a U.S. Attorney spokesman.)

The L.A. Times article notes how after Sebok’s email account was successfully hacked messages and multiple photographs were obtained, Schrier threatened to make the material available online unless Sebok and others paid “thousands of dollars in extortion payments.”

No payments were made, and in November 2010 Schrier “sent an email with a nude photograph of Sebok to approximately 100 individuals.” The photograph subsequently found its way online, including being published by the poster “R_Bubba” on the uncensored DonkDown forum shortly after the email had been sent.

Responses to the news of the failed “sextortion” attempt (as those reporting on it have called it) and Sebok’s testimony have included some voicing sympathy for Sebok’s plight while others have pointed out other, obvious factors negatively affecting Sebok’s “participation in the poker industry,” including the obvious one of Absolute Poker/UB having been essentially shut down following the events of Black Friday.

After joining UB in September 2009, Sebok’s defense of the integrity of “the new UB” and confidence in the site’s future had extended all of the way to the eve of Black Friday, including his having granted two lengthy interviews in March 2011 for CardRunners and Poker Static.  In those interviews Sebok addressed then-mounting questions about UB’s management and post-scandal cover-ups as well as widespread skepticism about the site’s integrity.

Interestingly — and perhaps ironically — one of the topics addressed in those interviews was an apparent extortion attempt involving Zoltan “Brainwashdodo” Rozsa and UB COO Paul Leggett as revealed by former UB employee Travis Makar. According to Makar, Rozsa claimed Leggett had paid him not to release information regarding the earlier superuser scandals at UB. Meanwhile, in the interviews Sebok repeatedly reaffirmed his faith in both Leggett and UB.

Extortion also became a theme of sorts for one of the last pre-Black Friday stories involving Sebok, one involving another attempt by him to defend the beleaguered UB brand.

That incident saw Sebok attempting to intercede behind the scenes during a public argument involving poker players Jon Aguiar and then-recent UB-signee Prahlad Friedman (among others) and accusations of account-sharing. Noting anti-UB comments made by Aguiar and directed toward Friedman on a Two Plus Two thread where the argument was playing out, Sebok allegedly sent Aguiar a private message advising him to “chill on the ub hate a little” while adding that Aguiar and his girlfriend “may have a skeleton or two that you wouldn’t want public.”

Aguiar immediately shared the private message on Two Plus Two, suggesting Sebok was trying to blackmail him with an implied threat to go public with certain unspecified information. After occupying the poker world’s attention for a brief period, the ugly incident quickly faded from view weeks later upon the unsealing of the Black Friday indictment and civil complaint.

On May 9, 2011, UB announced the disbanding of its roster of sponsored players, including Sebok. Sebok wrote a blog post that day reflecting on his parting with UB after having joined the site in September 2009. The post had appeared on the PokerRoad website which Sebok had co-founded with his stepfather, Barry Greenstein. PokerRoad soon went dormant in the months following Black Friday, and today is offline entirely.

Sebok did play 15 events in the 2011 WSOP, cashing in one, although has reduced his playing significantly since. His last Hendon Mob-chronicled cash came in November 2011, and he only played in two events (including the Main Event) at the 2012 WSOP.

In December 2012, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Sebok “took a break from professional poker at the end of 2011,” then the following year developed an interest in wine-making while working for Vinify, a premium custom crush winery in Santa Rosa. The article suggested Sebok had a career change in mind, with ideas to find a position “in marketing or social media in the wine business.”

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