The authorities in Bahama have seized the poker winnings of two US brothers and their cousins, who have just returned to the US after vacationing in the Bahamas, because they failed to declare their winnings at the pre-clearance. Since the trio pleaded guilty and agreed to forfeit their winnings, they were not given any prison sentence, but allowed to return home. The family was a victim of ignorance of law.

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Brothers Sean and Michael Ruane and their cousin Thomas Freeman were returning home to the US after betting on the performance of poker players in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) 2012 when they had to undergo a pre-clearance in Lynden Pindling International Airport. As part of the process, they were asked to state if they were carrying more than $10,000. The brothers declared they did not have over $10k on their persons.

The truth was that the trio was carrying more than $26,000. While the brothers held $9,400 each, their cousin held the rest of the cash. Later, they stated that they had split the cash in this manner to get through the pre-clearance earlier as they were already late to board their flight. They also stated that they thought that no individual was permitted to carry more than $10k on his/her person. However, Carolita Bethell, the deputy chief magistrate, clarified that this US law applied to entire families, not individuals.

Later, Sean Ruane informed the authorities that they had won that money betting on the performance of some of their friends who were participating in the PCA. Since one of their friends won the tournament, he gave them a cut of his winnings.

When the authorities noticed that Sean Ruane had broken into a sweat and appeared very nervous, they searched the brothers twice and discovered the money. They were then detained, booked for the offence, and produced for a hearing before the magistrate, where they pleased guilty.

Magistrate Bethell informed the trio that they only had to fill in a form, but lost all that money because they attempted to deceive the pre-clearance officers.

While the magistrate ruled that they should forfeit their winnings, she did not slap any extra fines or jail sentence on them because they had “no convictions in this jurisdiction” and because they “did not waste the court’s time and pleaded guilty.” She ruled that the fact that they have lost their poker winnings is enough punishment for them.

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