Hello, my name is Sonny Vleisides. I've been involved in technology and libertarian focused ventures for most of my adult life. I believe very strongly in freedom, honesty and personal responsibility.
I decided to drop university studies at UMKC back in 1991. My mother wasn't very happy about it, but with youthful ambition and no sense, I set out to travel the world instead. I've lived in Russia, Indonesia, Latin America, Europe etc... Mostly seeking opportunity while trying to learn what I could. Along the way, libertarian ideals became more interesting than any other and looking back, it's clear that's the attraction that's pulled me through life from one focus to the next. The internet was an exciting development. I started webspawner.com in 1995. It was my focus for many years. Do a search for 'free webpages' on google. I'm currently president of that company, not BFL.
In the late 90's, I found myself face to face with a great new concept. It was called jurisdictional arbitration. That's where you're able to leverage technology to profit from differences in law from one jurisdiction to another. The hotbed of it was in offshore gaming where a Costa Rican license could be used along with satellite telecommunications to offer gaming services to clients all over the world, even in the United States. I thought this was pretty cool, so I started a software company to provide the back end for these systems. We operated services as Sportsbook Solutions
and the SportsPulse platform
. It was a lucrative and fun time. I saw it as a libertarian adventure in challenging the authorities of the world while earning a good living.
I came to know my real father only as an adult. So when I got the opportunity to know him better, I was eager and curious. His name was James Ray Houston (the focus of the indictment). He was very charismatic and had a wild past from having ran for governor in Nevada. At one time he had a Lear jet with his picture on the tail. He'd gone broke and rich several times since and had a zillion GREAT stories to tell. I was completely enamored. At that time he had been building a business bundling lottery tickets and selling shares of ownership in their potential winnings. He moved to simply guaranteeing the ticket results on his own via re-insurance pools (US Patent application number US 2004/0058726 A1
). At some point after that it became clear to him that he could use a sportsbook license to clarify legality and allow his customers to bet on the outcome of a lottery without buying a lottery ticket. So instead of "I bet the Giants win by 7", it's "I bet the NY Lottery pick 3 is 4-7-2". He built international lottery products like this and took them to market. I helped him.
It was a roaring success.
It's fair to say the US Government didn't like it much in spite of the legal basis.
After several years, indictments suddenly rained down on all forms of offshore gaming.
That year (2007), about 30% of the larger offshore sportsbook/poker/lottery gaming companies were indicted with mail fraud and money laundering related accusations including betonsports.com, sportsbook.com, sportingbet plc. Later it was Bookmaker.com, 2Betsdi.com, Funtimebingo.com, Goldenarchcasino.com, Truepoker.com, Betmaker.com, Betgrandesports.com, Doylesroom.com, Betehorse.com, Beted.com.... and many more.
Each case was different and this one was particularly unusual because it wasn't a standard sportsbook model. In fact, this case was started by the IRS. Why the IRS? It's not my place to say, but it's worth any reader taking a moment to think about. The core of their argument was that if a customer didn't buy the ticket from the government, then they were being victimized. Consequently, it was decided that all economic activity by James Houston's company was fraudulent and that forms the basis of the indictment. However, the customers bought ticket funds and were paid their appropriate winnings as promised. Only the government lost out. This may have made the case hard to prosecute. In fact, the government ended the case without any obligation to repay anyone anything. No restitution.
My role was mostly as a software & license supplier, However, I became more involved over time... enough so that my name was included in the indictment.
Everything was fine until one day I was picked up while traveling in Florence. It was a sealed indictment, so I had no idea what was going on. I spent the next two years fighting extradition. The case went all the way to the Italian Supreme Court. In the end, I was extradited after the US was made to drop half of the charges. That's all they could do for me, but they really helped. I'll always be thankful to Italy for that.
In the US, I was preparing for my case. It had been a long slog. My finances had dwindled to zero, leaving me with a free court appointed lawyer from the legal pool. He showed me that the US federal system had a 97% conviction rate... higher than the Russian courts under Stalin. He calmly informed me that I was facing full life without possibility of parole as a first time white collar defendant.
Yes.. really. This is no joke. It's called the federal sentencing guidelines implemented in 1984. It's the point system that determines the sentence, not the judge. My points totaled 43. Life in prison. Look it up and prepare to be amazed.
After two and a half years preparing, we neared trial. The prosecutor calls for a meeting and offers me a deal. I can go home if I accept a single count of mail fraud and skip the trial. They would drop 23 charges and leave me with a simple postal violation (lesser count of mail fraud). I thought about it and it didn't take long for me to agree to get the shackles off. I signed and went home to my Mother's house in Kansas City. I sat there looking at the wall for a long time. I didn't feel like leaving the house much. It was difficult to get over the emotional loss. My life was ruined. Mom got me an account on match.com and encouraged me to date. I met a wonderful girl and we had a little boy. We named him Indy. My life continued and I started to look for a new project to begin again. A fresh start. I'm on a good track now, trying to put the past behind me.
Somewhere along the way, I got involved with the BFL project. (No one from the indictment is involved in this company, in fact two of them have since died including my father.) With regards to BFL, I'm proud to have played a role in it's start up and focus on the current products, but I am not a majority owner. The company has 22 employees who are all dedicated and focused on delivering a truly amazing best in class product.
The bitcoin community and it's success are important to me and my past isn't a threat to it or to the BFL corporation. I hope you can see that.
Thanks for your time in reading this.