Michigan Poker Player Says He's the Victim of $2M Extortion Scheme
Michigan poker player George Janssen alleges he is the victim of an extortion scheme that began two years ago when a man held him at gunpoint outside a Detroit casino and demanded $2 million.
Janssen, who last month was found zip-tied and bloodied on a rural Michigan road and claimed to have been held captive in a basement for 35 days, told family and friends that he had been regularly giving "large amounts of cash" to the men who threatened him and was seven figures in debt.
These details and others about Janssen's alleged abduction appeared in a missing persons report that PokerNews obtained through a public records request.
The case, which has been referred to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), describes how Janssen was allegedly preyed upon for his poker winnings, which includes recent $82,823 and $79,861 scores.
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Held At Gunpoint, Ordered to Make Money Drops
On Nov. 13, Janssen, a four-time World Series of Poker (WSOP) Circuit Ring winner and Mid-States Poker Tour (MSPT) Main Event champion with $440,763 in live earnings, was reported missing by friends and family. A longtime friend told detectives with the Monroe County Sheriff's Office that they had spoken with Janssen days earlier and he had sounded "broken."
Janssen allegedly told his friend that "approximately two years ago after a poker tournament in Detroit, George was leaving the casino (George did not remember which casino when telling the story) and entered his car which was parked in a parking garage."
"When George sat in the driver's seat of his vehicle, an unknown masked man pointed a gun to George's head and demanded two million dollars," reads the witness report.
Janssen allegedly told the attacker (who "was wearing a mask and possibly had a Mexican accent") he did not have $2 million, at which point "the man made George drive to a parking lot down the street ... (where) he was met by multiple subjects who provided him with a cell phone."
"Over the course of the next two years, George would be contacted on a cell phone provided by the suspects and they would give him a 'drop' area," the report reads. "At the location provided by the suspects, George would drop increments of large amounts of cash for the suspects. Sometimes in the drop box there would be another cell phone provided by the suspects, or a handwritten note from the suspects advising George where the next box would be. Periodically the suspects would threaten to harm George's family or send George photographs of his children."
A family member told detectives that Janssen had been given "different meeting spots where he would have to drop off large sums of money."
"George advised ... that when he would make these drops, he would place the money in a small box that would be at these locations," the report reads. "On some occasions, there would be a cell phone in the box. If a cell phone was in the box, George would have to put his cell phone in the box and take the new one to continue communications. George stated sometimes there would be handwritten notes in the box advising where the next drop location would be. (The family member) advised that recently George disclosed ... that he told the men extorting him that he was running out of money. The men stated that he would have to make one more last drop valued at 25 thousand dollars."
The family member last heard from Janssen the morning of Nov. 13 when he said "he was heading to Novi to talk to someone about 'money'." The same day, a friend discovered Janssen's abandoned car off of Lulu Road with a few $50 bills scattered on the floor.
Cryptic Messages In Handwritten Letter
On Dec. 15, a family member contacted police and said they had received a handwritten letter from the still-missing Janssen. The family member "noticed several items" that stood out in the letter, including references to the names Kirby, Iggy, Daisey Noah, Anthony and Parker.
"(The family member) stated that they do not know anyone with these names, nor do they have any pets / animals with these names," the report reads. "It should be noted that the names spell out 'Kidnap.'"
Janssen's poker earnings were repeatedly discussed throughout the interviews. One person told detectives "George will win frequently and walk out with $80,000+ per poker game," while another described him as "a prominent poker player (who) frequently plays in high stakes poker tournaments across the country."
Detectives also learned that Janssen, who owns a used car dealership in Bay City, Michigan, "was in a couple million dollars worth of debt to his bank." One interviewee told detectives that Janssen had "been taking out loans on vehicles that he did not have the money for," and a bank official later confirmed that his account was $2 million in debt.
FBI Is Investigating
The Monroe County Sheriff's Office closed its missing persons investigation when Janssen was found on Dec. 18 and forwarded the case to the FBI, which had already been looking into Janssen's disappearance.
"(Monroe County) Detectives were contacted by the FBI, advising that George was seen in Bad Axe and checked himself into a local hospital," a detective wrote. "The FBI will be continuing the investigation on their end."
PokerNews previously reached out to the FBI for comment and the agency would not confirm or deny an investigation.