January 14, 2022
Scandals & Crime
A class-action lawsuit was filed in California on Friday, accusing digital payment processor PayPal of extortion over confiscating customer funds.
Two-time WSOP Circuit Ring winner Lena Evans, founder of the nonprofit Poker League of Nations (PLON) and CEO of poker tournament organizer Helix Poker, is the lead plaintiff among three people alleging PayPal stole her money.
The lawsuit accuses PayPal of using its user agreement policies to arbitrarily freeze funds from accounts and then seize them for violations that are never clearly explained.
Bensamochan Law Firm and Schreiber & Schreiber filed the complaint in the United States District Court, Northern District of California. The other two plaintiffs are businessmen Roni Shemtov and Shbadan Akylbekov.
Shemtov had seized $42,737 and Akylbekov $172,206. The lawsuit seeks threefold damages.
Freeze and confiscation without warning
In Evan’s situation, the lawsuit alleges PayPal froze $26,984 in November 2020 without warning or explanation for 180 days. She used PayPal to operate both PLON and Helix Poker and to sell and buy clothes.
In May 2021, PayPal seized the money “without ever telling Ms. Evans why,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit alleges she never received a reply to any of her emails and was unable to speak to a live person despite multiple phone calls.
While Evans received no explanation for their predicament, PayPal told the other two plaintiffs that their money was confiscated because the lawsuit says they violated parts of its acceptable use policy, which is part of its lengthy user agreement.
The allegations of the multi-faceted, 37-page complaint are summed up in one line from the filing:
“Paypal’s transactions and practices are illegal, highly questionable and akin to outright theft.”
Triggered by Chris Moneymaker
Around the same time that Evan’s money was being seized by PayPal, so was Chris Moneymaker, 2003 WSOP champion and current pro on the American Card Room team.
They only told Moneymaker he violated the payment site’s terms and confiscated more than $12,000. Just like Evans, the funds were frozen in the fall after members of his fantasy football league wired their $1,000 dues to Moneymaker, who served as the league’s treasurer.
Then, 180 days later, PayPal drained his account.
This angry moneymaker who hired the Bensamochan law firm to sue PayPal and encouraged anyone else whose money was being seized by eBay’s own firm to get on board.
PayPal’s legal team must have noticed, because 10 days after sending out the tweet urging others who may have been mistreated by the settlement giant to contact his lawyer, the money just showed up back in his account.
Since getting his money back, Moneymaker is no longer a plaintiff in the case. But that doesn’t stop him from fixing this perceived flaw.
Pinned on his Twitter as of June 17, 2021:
The Bensamochan Law Firm would like to hear from others who have had their funds seized by @PayPal for an alleged violation of their user agreement or acceptable use policy. Please use the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
— Chris Moneymaker ⭕ (@CMONEYMAKER) June 18, 2021
His mentions are full of people claiming that PayPal treated them the same way and confiscated funds for violating parts of the user agreement.
Eric Bensamochan, the lead attorney, was unavailable for comment.
The lawsuit alleges that there are likely thousands of victims who are eligible for compensation from PayPal, but the plaintiffs cannot know for certain the potential size of the class without information and documents in PayPal’s possession.
How many others were affected?
While Moneymaker and Evans are connected to the world of gambling and poker, Shemtov and Akylbekov are businessmen who claim PayPal stole money they made selling goods.
In Shemotov’s case, she was given three different reasons for her money being confiscated, including that she was undercharging her yoga wear.
The other two reasons they gave — that she uses the same IP address as other users and has multiple accounts — are simply not true, according to the lawsuit.
In Akylbekov’s case, PayPal said it was entitled to seize and withhold the money for damages caused by violating parts of the user agreement that were not defined.
All three plaintiffs explain how PayPal simply ignored their questions and concerns, some of which were submitted in writing to the company’s attorneys.
With more than 300 million users and more than 20 million active merchant accounts, there’s a good chance PayPal treated other customers the way this lawsuit alleges.
Bob Pajich is a poker news reporter, creative writer and poker player who has never come across suited connectors he didn’t like.
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