Crime & Courts

Brandon Steven is subject of federal inquiry over poker, casino

Brandon Steven in his office at Eddy's Toyota in 2015.
Brandon Steven in his office at Eddy's Toyota in 2015. File photo

Businessman Brandon Steven said Tuesday that he is a subject of a federal inquiry into poker and his involvement in trying to open a casino in Kansas.

Letters from the U.S. Attorney’s Office were delivered Tuesday to several parties saying that phone communication with Steven was intercepted under federal law last year.

One letter said the order applied to Steven and a phone number subscribed to Genesis Health Club Management LLC and utilized by Steven. Steven said the number is a private line not associated with Genesis Health Club.

Brandon Steven is a partner in Genesis, car businesses and other businesses.

When contacted for comment about the letter, Steven said: “I’m aware of the broad nature of this inquiry. As you know and everybody knows, I play high-stakes poker.

“And from what we understand, they are looking into my poker and my involvement with Castle Rock Casino.”

He and a team of Wichita investors tried unsuccessfully to win a state bid to build the Castle Rock Casino in southeast Kansas.

“I’ve retained counsel, and we’re going to fully cooperate with this matter,” Steven said Tuesday.

One letter, dated Feb. 1, was delivered to a Wichita Eagle staff member’s residence Tuesday. The letter said the conversations were intercepted between May 14, 2015, and June 13, 2015. A similar letter was delivered to The Wichita Eagle.

“This notice does not mean that you are being charged in court with anything,” says the letter, signed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Smith. “This is simply a notice the law requires we send you,” it says. “It only means that you, or someone using a telephone subscribed to you, were intercepted talking with a person using the telephone listed above.”

U.S. Attorney’s spokesman Jim Cross said he couldn’t comment on any investigation.

The U.S. Attorneys office has the authority to intercept cell phone calls if it has an affidavit from a federal judge, or sometimes also from a state judge, said Charlie O’Hara, a local defense attorney.

“It’s a little more difficult than it would be with a normal search warrant, but they have to have probable cause and the judge has to approve it,” O’Hara said.

The intercepts are limited to 30 days at a time and can then be extended, he said.

The government would then be required to send a letter.

“What they would do is send a letter after the tap is done and quite frankly, what’s interesting about it, is they send it to everyone who’s had contact with that number,” O’Hara said.

Editor’s note: Brandon Steven is among a group of investors who in 2016 purchased the building occupied by The Wichita Eagle. The Eagle plans to move to a new location this spring.

Contributing: Carrie Rengers of The Eagle