Oregon Feds Acknowledge Ongoing Criminal Investigation in Talon White Video-Piracy Case
The US District Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon has acknowledged the existence of an ongoing criminal investigation into the alleged video-piracy activities of Newport, Oregon’s Talon White, whose attorney has described in court documents as a professional poker player.
White, 28, is the subject of two separate asset-seizure actions which in total amount for well over $6 million in cash, cryptocurrency and property. The first of the two actions, which was filed in November 2018, has now been stayed pending the ongoing criminal investigation. White is described in the court documents of both cases as the ringleader and primary controller of funds from a long-running video-piracy ring that sold hundreds of thousands of download-access subscriptions to a large database of movie and TV offerings. The offerings traced to White and unnamed others involved video-download sites including Noobroom, Superchillin, Movietv.to and Sit2play.com, which operated in turns from 2013 to 2016 and generated millions of dollars in alleged illicit revenue.
White, though, has not been arrested to date, despite the millions of dollars in assets already effectively seized and allegedly derived from the video-piracy operations. Such operations can and often do result in criminal charges.
In a filing in the original forfeiture case, dated July 11, 2019, the parties announced the agreement to stay the forfeiture action pending court approval. That approval was given the following day. The following was offered as the reason for the stay motion:
On May 10, 2019, this Court ordered the parties to submit a joint status report.  As an update, Mr. White is the subject of a criminal investigation. The parties are currently exploring a pre-indictment resolution which would include resolution of the civil forfeiture matters. Because of the ongoing criminal investigation, the parties agree that a stay of this civil forfeiture action, which is based on the same facts as the criminal investigation, is appropriate. 
The government hereby moves pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 981(g)(1), to stay all further proceedings in this case pending resolution of the related criminal investigation.
To date, the motion for and granting of the stay applies only to the first of the two cases against White, who has not been publicly identified in Oregon-based news reports but has been widely named elsewhere. In the second forfeiture case, which was filed in May 2019, White only recently filed as a claimant. It is quite likely that a matching motion to stay the forfeiture proceedings will be filed in that matter as well, which involves four JP Morgan Chase bank accounts not included in the first forfeiture action. Those four accounts together held nearly $2.5 million in proceeds from the alleged video-piracy operation.
One of the most recent filings in that second forfeiture action is an initial response to the complaint, which lists 12 separate and wide-ranging affirmative defenses. Those defenses include statute-of-limitations expiration, the US Constitution’s Eight Amendment, defective seizure notice, constitutional disproportionality, among other claims.
While described as a poker pro by his Texas-based attorney, Rain Minns, White has little record of live tourney success, though he could be a successful cash-game or online player despite the lack of known results.
Minns previously spoke out against the initial forfeiture action, saying, “We don’t generally comment on a current case, but as a matter of principle the government should not grab a person’s assets and strip them of their resources unless and until proven guilty.” While the point is valid, the reversal of the normal investigativ and prosecutorial chain of events may have been due in part to the online and crypto-connected nature of the long-running operation.
The latest acknowledgment that a criminal investigation into the video-piracy operation is ongoing will eventually restore the cases to a more normal order of resolution. That in turn will likely render moot the otherwise valid point being made by Minns in her defense of White and his alleged activities.