One of the stranger stories in recent months arrives from the offices of the Attorney General for the Northern District of New York, involving two-time WSOP bracelet winner Brent Carter and a series of threatening phone calls and letters sent to New York State’s Gaming Commission.
Carter, 72, was indicted last week on a criminal complaint of conveying false information and hoaxes, specifically relating to the mailing of various unidentified substances that had to be tested to assure their non-lethality. Carter’s alleged crime follows a decades-old grudge that he held against New York’s racing officials for 45 years.
Back in the 1970s, Carter (a native of suburban Chicago) worked in New York’s harness racing industry. He was accused of being part of a cheating scheme, and his industry license was temporarily suspended, though later restored in full. Some stigma may have followed him, however, because he eventually moved to Las Vegas and became a successful poker pro. Among other accolades, Carter snared two World Series of Poker bracelets in the ’90s and amassed just shy of $3.1 million in career tourney winnings. His largest cash, $302,000, came in the 1995 WSOP World Championship No-Limit main event, where he placed third to champion Dan Harrington.
That was, for Carter, a long-time ago. Now he’s facing a possible maximum sentence of five years in prison, a three-year term of post-imprisonment supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000. There are, of course, some extenuating circumstances, including Carter’s age and possible cognitive impairment, that suggest that even if found guilty, as appears likely, he’d face a lesser sentence.
On to the bizarre details. For however long he held his grudge against the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC), it didn’t burst out until October of 2018, when he left a message referencing the mass shooting in Las Vegas a year earlier that left 60 people dead and hundreds more wounded.
Carter left this in a phone message on the NYSGC’s system, after repeatedly phoning their offices seeking some sort of letter regarding his innocence in the decades-old cheating investigation. Carter said this: “Well it looks like the shooter in Las Vegas missed you guys. As long as you’re not available, you should be made permanently not available.”
A month later, he left these statements in another phone message: “[You’re] all criminals anyway, evil, dishonest people, just unprosecuted criminals. … Too bad you weren’t walking down the street when the guy came came crashing through, that would have been appropriate. … Why have innocent people killed when you could have the Office of Inspector General people eliminated from their dirty deeds?”
Voiced threats were one thing, but then Carter escalated the matter further by sending unknown and powdered substances to the NYSGC offices. Those substances had to be tested, and Carter’s threats were then referred to the “white powder” division of the FBI. In an affidavit included in the New York criminal complaint against Carter, FBI agent Michael E Crounse summarized the investigation. That included the sending of four separate letter to the NYSGC that contained unknown and possibly lethal substances.
Here’s how Crounse detailed the sequence of letters:
“a. On April 15, 2019, an employee at the NYSGC received an envelope at NYSGC in Schenectady, NY (“April 15 envelope”) through the United States Postal Service (“USPS”). The April 15 envelope was sent from Las Vegas, Nevada on April 11, 2019 and addressed the NYSGC. The envelope had no return address and had the words “CRITICAL EVIDENCE” written on the outside of the envelope. The envelope contained a mixture of various substances which, when tested, were found to be birdseed, dirt, a paperclip, and hair.
“b. On June 17, 2019, an employee at the NYSGC received an envelope at NYSGC in Schenectady, NY (“June 17 envelope”) through the USPS. The June 17 envelope had a return address of “Brent Carter 1424 Awesome Ct. Las Vegas, NV” and was sent from Las Vegas, Nevada on June 13, 2019. The June 17 envelope was addressed to the NYSGC. The envelope contained a white powdery substance which, when tested, was found to be sugar.
“c. On June 21, 2019, an employee at the NYSGC received an envelope at NYSGC in Schenectady, NY (“June 21 envelope”) through the USPS. The June 21 envelope had a return address of “Brent Carter 1424 Awesome Ct. Las Vegas, NV” and was sent from Las Vegas, Nevada on June 18, 2019. The June 21 envelope was addressed to the NYSGC. The envelope contained a powdery substance which, when tested, was found to be drywall.”
According to the FBI, Carter had literally included his return address on two of the three letters containing the powdered substances. A year later, according to Crounse, Carter consented to a voluntary interview by law enforcement in Las Vegas regarding the three envelopes, as well as the telephone threats.
“CARTER identified the handwriting on the April 15 envelope; June 17 envelope, and June 21 envelope as belonging to him and stated, in sum and substance, that he recalled sending the envelopes to the NYSGC. When questioned as to why CARTER sent these envelopes to the NYSGC, CARTER stated, in sum and substance, that he wanted a hearing to clear up his horse racing suspension, that he has nightmares because he cannot find his horses, and that the NYSGC would not respond to CARTER regarding his suspension.
“CARTER further stated ‘I think sometimes if you try to make a point by being funny, you can create more trouble.'”
Told that the unknown substances had to be sent to HAZMAT for testing, Carter told the FBI agents, “I guess in my mind I didn’t think this out but when I sent stuff, the garbage or junk, whatever, I sent, I guess it was revenge or trying to slow down their thinking.”
One would think that might have stopped it, but the Carter sent yet another envelope, this one containing what was eventually found to be talcum powder. According to Crounse:
“Despite warnings from law enforcement during this October 4, 2020 interview, an employee at the NYSGC received a fourth envelope on January 28, 2021 (“January 28 envelope”) through the USPS. The January 28 envelope had a return address of”Brent Carter 1424 Awesome Ct. Las Vegas, NV.” The January 28 envelope was addressed to an employee at the NYSGC. The envelope contained a white powdery substance which, when tested, was found to be talcum powder.”
Reading between the lines, it appears that the FBI may have recognized some possible impairment going on with Carter, having not sought to have New York press charges after three substance-filled envelopes and the assorted verbal threats. Yet when Carter mailed that fourth “white powder” letter, they were left with no other choice than to seek prosecution.
Carter was not brought to New York to be arraigned, instead being detained in Las Vegas, with the arraignment hearing held via video. Carter was also released on his own recognizance, again an indicator that there’s more going on here than the actual crime and the threats. Carter himself hasn’t played much tournament poker in recent years, with his last recorded cash coming in 2015.