Mar 15, 2016, 7:53 pm
The operators of an offshore gambling website that accepts online lottery wagers used Amazon gift cards to launder nearly $2 million over the past few years, a Department of Homeland Security investigator alleged in a recent application for a seizure warrant filed in the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.
The filing alleges that the Costa Rica-based gambling site, 5Dimes, instructed U.S. customers to use Amazon gift cards to fund their 5Dimes online gambling wagers, in an effort to skirt the U.S. financial system. The feds say 5Dimes also paid out winnings to U.S. customers in Amazon gift cards, or in merchandise they picked out on Amazon.com.
"[T]he investigation has determined that 5Dimes has developed an alternative to the traditional online financial payment methods, which is unavailable to 5Dimes under federal law, in order to operate its illegal betting operation in the U.S.," the document reads. "This illegal alternative relies on the use of [Amazon gift cards], in violation of Amazon's terms of service."
The Homeland Security warrant application makes the case to seize a total of $159,000 spread among 15 Amazon accounts believed to be tied to 5Dimes. Over the years, the Amazon accounts, which bear names such as GC Lover and Blue Iguana, have held nearly $1.9 million in funds combined. Amazon has shut down the GC Lover account, according to the filing.
5Dimes does not charge a fee for bettors who fund their accounts with Amazon gift cards. The company has instructed bettors to purchase these gift cards at a traditional retail store, in cash, and email a photo of the card information along with a receipt. The gambling site also offers bettors a 10 percent bonus if they choose to receive their winnings in the form of Amazon gift cards added to their Amazon account.
The company also used the gift cards to purchase merchandise, such as 100 office chairs and 50 custom sweatshirts silkscreened with the 5Dimes logo, the application says.
An Amazon spokesman declined to comment. The betting site did not respond to a message sent to a company email account.
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