Poker player Talon White has been sentenced to 12 months in a federal prison after admitting to operating subscription-based websites that illegally streamed thousands of copyright-protected movies and television shows to users.
The Newport, Oregon native, 31, listed his occupation as “professional poker player” when he was arrested in November 2019 and charged with copyright infringement and tax evasion. But it’s clear where the lion’s share of his income came from.
As a poker player, White earned $100,000 in gross live tournament winnings between 2012 and his arrest in 2019. The highlight of his career was a 14th-place finish in a World Series of Poker event in 2018. But during the same period, his day job, digital piracy, was proving to be distinctly more profitable.
According to prosecutors, in total White collected more than $8 million in subscription fees to his websites. Between February 2018 and September 2018 alone, he amassed nearly $3 million.
According to court documents, in October 2013, investigators received information about numerous illegal websites linked to White that allowed users to stream or download content, some of which had not yet been released to the public, prosecutors said.
The tipoffs came from online payment providers, including Paypal and Stripe, as well as the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which fights to protect intellectual property rights for the movie and television industries.
In 2014, White received a cease-and-desist order from the MPAA, but he ignored the notice. Instead, he opted to engage in a cat-and-mouse game with authorities, migrating his business and subscribers from one website to another to avoid detection.
In November 2018, federal investigators executed a search and seizure warrant on his Newport property and several bank accounts. Agents seized $3.9 million from his accounts, $35,000 in cash, and more than $1 million in cryptocurrency.
False Tax Returns
In November 2019, White pleaded guilty to copyright infringement and tax evasion. Prosecutors believe that between 2013 and 2017, he filed false personal income tax returns, underreporting his income by more than $4.4 million.
US District Court Judge Ann L. Aiken ordered White to pay more than $4.3 million in restitution to the MPAA and IRS. White has also agreed to forfeit all currencies seized from his bank accounts, as well as his home in Newport because it was purchased with proceeds of crime.
The defendant was scheduled to be sentenced last year but the trial was postponed because of the coronavirus. He initially faced up to five years in prison.
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