Gaming commission: Franklin man managed illegal online gambling operation

A Franklin man is facing criminal charges after gaming officials say he made over $170,000 while managing illegal online poker games.

Matthew Wayne Nix, 46, is charged with professional gambling over the internet, a Level 6 felony, for participating in and managing an illegal online gambling operation from Feb. 1, 2022, to April 30, 2023. He was booked into the Johnson County jail Thursday and was released on bond.

The Indiana Gaming Commission began investigating Nix after a gaming control officer received information on July 6, 2022, that he was involved with illegal gambling through an online app named “LFGO” and a Facebook group called “New Age Poker,” or NAP, to conduct online poker games for money. NAP was created around February 2022 and Nix was an administrator of the page, along with at least one other person, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in Johnson County Superior Court 3 on Sept. 6.

This is a violation of Indiana’s professional gambling laws, according to the affidavit. The tipster also informed officials that Nix had recently been hired by Horseshoe Indianapolis Casino in Shelbyville, where he was employed as a poker dealer, the affidavit shows.

On July 19, 2022, an undercover gaming control officer asked to join the page and was accepted. One of the page’s administrators, not Nix, responded to the request on Facebook messenger and instructed him how to download the LFGO app and find the NAP group. The administrator also asked for the officer to let them know when they downloaded the app, and that they preferred to use Zelle, a bank fund transfer service, the affidavit shows.

The administrator told the officer that they had a game running at the time and usually had three games going at once. The officer asked to see the games, but a short time later, the administrator erased all of the messages they had sent, and blocked the officer from the NAP page and their personal page, according to the affidavit.

Gaming control officers later served grand jury subpoenas to Zelle for the records of both Nix and the administrator. The records showed large amounts of money being transferred in and out of both accounts, along with high-dollar transfers that were consistent with a poker game, the affidavit shows.

Investigators say some of the transfers even denoted that they were used for poker games, with notes saying “Poker buy in,” “game” or “The game.” Some of the transfers came from people that Nix allegedly referenced in messages as people who owed him money.

Other notes on the transfers appeared designed to conceal what the transfer was for, the affidavit says.

Investigators also obtained records for Nix’s Facebook page last fall, an over 13,000-page report. A review showed there were allegedly many pictures, screenshots and chats about NAP, the LFGO app and players.

The undercover gaming control officer also discovered that Nix and the administrators had reportedly become suspicious of him because of his lack of money transfer apps and “and a small Facebook and online presence.” The messages allegedly showed that they thought the officer was a competitor from another app trying to recruit players, according to the affidavit.

There were also chats about how much money they would make daily if they continued gambling, along with about who owed money.

One screenshot shared in the messages showed a Venmo account with Nix’s name that had a balance of over $8,000. It also showed a transfer of $100 from a man who was a member of the NAP Facebook group, the affidavit shows.

In March 2023, officers saw the page was still active with nearly 300 members. NAP was also still active on the LFGO app.

Gaming control officers met with Nix on April 6, telling Nix about the complaint they had received about him allegedly running an illegal online poker game, and that they had subpoenaed his financial and Facebook records, which showed “significant involvement” in the illegal game.

Nix allegedly told officers that he had been involved with an online poker app called “POKERRR2.” He also told them of two other individuals who had their own illegal online poker games on the app, and how he had reportedly brokered a deal to bring them with him to start the illegal NAP group using the LFGO app.

He also reportedly told officers he was making $1,500 to $2,000 a week, and thought the NAP group was making $10,000 to $15,000 a week.

Officers say Nix explained the structure of the operation, including who were the six administrators of NAP. Each administrator was responsible for allowing new players, managing the players, collecting money and making payouts to players under their control through various money transfer services, the affidavit shows.

He also showed officers how to use LFGO, and gave them information about each administrator’s earnings from NAP. The NAP group took a portion of every pot played, with a cap of $5 per hand.

Earning shares varied from 10% to 20%, with Nix himself earning over $174,772 — the largest amount among the administrators, the affidavit shows.

The information also showed the group had set aside over $80,000 in a promotional account for NAP. Nix also helped officers obtain information about “agents” who recruited new players and were paid by NAP, along with a list of overall players, according to the affidavit.

Nix also reportedly gave information about another person’s illegal gambling operation on the LFGO app, the affidavit shows.

Additional subpoenas of Nix’s financial records showed he had sent over $347,000 on Venmo, a money transfer service, and received over $447,567. He had also withdrawn nearly $122,000 on Venmo, according to the affidavit.

Officers also found transactions between Nix and individuals known to be involved in NAP and others. Descriptions of the transactions were indicative of gambling, and others were designed to conceal their purposes, the affidavit shows.

Subpoenas of Nix’s bank accounts from both June and July showed that he allegedly continued to use his Zelle account to collect and pay money associated with the illegal gambling operation, according to the affidavit.

All of the records corroborated Nix’s statements to investigators about the use of the services to collect money from the illegal games and to pay winnings for the games, the affidavit says.

An initial hearing in the case is set for Oct. 16.