Two Poker Players In California Claim Iowa Authorities Unlawfully Seized Bankroll

William “Bart” Davis and John Newmerzhycky, two poker players from California, were stopped in Iowa and had their winnings seized. Now they’re taking the Iowa State Patrol to court to get their money back.

The loss of more than $100,000 in cash did not sit well with the professional poker aficionados who claim they were simply driving through Des Moines when police pulled them over. The officers allegedly thought that the combination of out-of-state license plates and a large amount of cash on hand was suspicious.

Des Moines attorney Glen Downey stated that though the circumstances may have appeared like an episode of Breaking Bad, what the two men were doing was not against the law. It was merely suspicious and caught the authorities’ attention.

“There is absolutely nothing illegal or uncommon about people driving through the United States with out-of-state plates… and carrying amounts of cash. There’s nothing illegal about carrying cash, and yet law enforcement begins to treat individuals who are carrying cash as if they are criminals.”

Davis and Newmerzhycky had been traveling westbound on Highway 80 from a World Series of Poker event at the Harrah’s casino in Joliet, Illinois, on April 15, 2013, when the troopers stopped them. Mewmerzhycky had been driving a rented red Nissan Altima with Nevada license plates, and Davis had been mentoring him on how to be a better poker player. The trip was cut short when the vehicle was pulled over for allegedly failing to use a turn signal to pass a black SUV after being followed for about ten minutes.

Allegedly their drug sniffing dog was alerted to the rear of the vehicle, where a grinder was found, a device used in processing marijuana.

The Iowa State Patrol defended their actions against the two poker players, stating that by targeting drivers with out-of-state license plates and large sums of cash, they catch a lot of criminals. Some are human traffickers, while others are drug dealers, and yet others turn out to be ATM “skimmers,” using people’s credit card and other personal information for profit.

In the span of two years recently, over $7 million in illegal money and drugs have been seized. Firearms, untaxed cigarettes, and stolen phones were also among the items captured by doing what had been done to the professional poker players.

Sergeant Rob Mordini of the Iowa State Patrol said the reason was to slow criminal activity or discourage it.

“That’s why every criminal element is in the business. To just take their drugs, to just take their stolen weapons, to just interrupt their human trafficking regime, you don’t stop that organization. You cripple them when you take their funds.”

Arguably, it also forces criminals to find more discreet ways to do their business and makes them more difficult to ultimately stop.

California attorney Benjamin Okin stated that the patrol car’s dash cam clearly showed that the two had signaled, and that the pullover was unnecessary.

“If you sit down and you watch the video, you can see very clearly that they signaled. If you have a bad stop, then anything that flows from that is gone.”

Do you think the Iowa State Patrol was justified in their actions against the California poker players? Could the potentially unlawful traffic stop be the fact that wins Davis and Newmerzhycky their money back?

[image via Odds and Pots]