US Homeland Security Targets Sportsbook 5Dimes in Amazon Gift Card Scheme
The United States Department of Homeland Security has targeted offshore, US-facing online sportsbetting site 5Dimes with seizure actions designed to disrupt an impromptu monetary channel allegedly being used by the company to move funds to and from certain preferred customers, using loaded Amazon gift cards as a medium of exchange.
Cybernews site Re/Code reported on Tuesday that Homeland Security investigators has filed for a seizure warrant targeting approximately 15 Amazon business accounts allegedly used in the scheme, which according to the story was designed to allow 5Dimes punters to move money onto and off the site. The warrant seeks to seize roughly $159,000 in balances still loaded in the 15 Amazon accounts, with the Homeland Security investigators alleging that at least $1.9 million has been funneled through the Amazon-connected channels in both cash and merchandise.
Not only does such activity violate US anti-gambling and money-laundering laws, it also violates the terms of service of the Seattle, WA-based online giant. The Re/Code piece named only two of the 15 merchant accounts connected with the scheme, named “GC Lover” and “Blue Iguana.”
The existence of the seizure warrant has not been independently reported by other news outlets to date, and appear to have not resulted, so far, in active criminal or civil complaints being filed against 5Dimes, related business entities, or known or alleged operators of the company, which is one of the largest US-facing offshore books. FlushDraw has conducted a preliminary search of US online court records looking for related cases, but has not turned up any active filings.
The allegations against 5Dimes, if true, are far from the first time that such cards have been used as part of an illicit account-loading scheme. International phone cards have also been used in such ploys, and loadable “throwaway” credit and debit cards have become a staple of sorts of the gray-market industry. Since international banking channels and practices regarding the use of such “plastic” often falls outside US jurisdiction, US authorities are often left trying to disrupt such activity when it falls within long-arm reach, as in the current example with Amazon. Amazon has wide international presence, but is nonetheless domiciled in the US, bringing even offshore merchant accounts with the site within the grasp of US regulators.
While the $159,000 seizure represents only a small blip on the 5Dimes radar, it’s nonetheless another indicator that US authorities may be training their sites on the veteran Costa Rica-based site. Just two weeks ago, major Costa Rican news outlets La Nacion and the Costa Rican Times reported on a major money-laundering investigation, purportedly involving as much as US $1.5 billion in funds, corporate channels in Dubai and Malta, and the alleged connection to 5Dimes manager Marisol Carvajal Cordero. In addition to her connection to 5Dimes and its parent company, Red Planet S.A., Carvajal is also listed as majority shareholder of the two other companies in Malta and Dubai connected to the ongoing investigation, named Woodtree Equipment Limited and Latitude Global FZE.
Investigators have also alleged that banks in the US, Germany, UK and Spain were involved in the scheme, which was funneled through corporate accounts at Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) and involved not only 5Dimes parent Red Planet but another entity, a real-estate investment firm called Latinamerica Trust & Escrow Company SA (LATCO). LATCO is controlled by husband and wife Manfred Pino and Jennifer Morsin, who also appear connected to the scheme and are included in the ongoing investigation.
5Dimes has declined to comment on either of the matter to date, and the site’s operations appear to be continuing in this busy “March Madness” week without any interruption.