Poker Pro Michael Borovetz Arrested at Detroit Airport, Charged With Defrauding Travelers

Posted on: August 14, 2019, 10:36h. 

Last updated on: August 14, 2019, 12:36h.

Michael Borovetz, age 44, a poker player known throughout the country who is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was arrested this week in Detroit and charged with attempting to defraud unsuspecting travelers.

Michael Borovetz poker pro airport begging
Michael Borovetz, seen here in a 2018 mug shot after being arrested for panhandling at Newark International Airport, is allegedly up to his old tricks. (Image: Port Authority Police)

Wayne County Airport Authority police say they arrested Borovetz on Saturday after he allegedly approached passengers at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, telling them sob stories and asking for money.

Law enforcement said in a release that the poker player gave “a sad story in an attempt to get money, while promising to pay it back.” Police added that Borovetz has been convicted multiple times on similar charges at airports, and his criminal history “spans 13 states.”

Borovetz has been charged on two counts of false pretenses with intent to defraud, which are misdemeanors. He remains in Wayne County Jail after failing to post bond at $100,000/10 percent down.

Forum Post Reveals Secrets

According to The Hendon Mob poker database, Borovetz has total live earnings of $589,958.

His best live cash came in 2006 when he won the $1,000+80 WSOP Circuit No Limit Hold’em event at Harrah’s Atlantic City. He pocketed $66,240 by outlasting 206 other players.

But Borovetz, an admitted problem gambler, hasn’t reported a live cash result this year. And since 2015, his poker earnings total a measly $24,865. That equates to income of less than $5,000 per year from his professional poker playing.

The US Department of Health & Human Services says the 2019 poverty guideline for an individual is $12,490. Of course, Borovetz could be making money by other means, and has been known to fancy a blackjack table.

Borovetz apparently confessed to his airport scheme in 2014 on the poker forum. He explained in a post that after he gave a sad story to an all-too-nice person who handed him money, he would gamble the funds and try to “win more money so I don’t have to go to the airport anymore.”

Detroit airport police were tipped off that he was connecting through the city on his way to Miami. Officials say he’s been on their radar since 2015.

Begging Laws

Borovetz’s actions raise the issue of the legality of public begging. It’s a complicated legal matter.

Panhandling is a form of solicitation or begging derived from the impression created by someone holding out his hand to beg or using a container to collect money. When municipalities regulate panhandling – a form of speech – First Amendment rights become an issue,” the Middle Tennessee State University’s Excellence in First Amendment Studies explains.

There have been several landmark cases involving the US Supreme Court that have allowed cities to restrict begging where the activity threatens to obstruct public safety.

In 1990, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that the New York City Transit Authority had the right to ban solicitation in the city’s subway system.

In 1992, the Supreme Court ruled that the International Society for Krishna Consciousness – a religious organization that promotes the spread of bhakti yoga – didn’t have the right to spread its literature in New York City airports. The Supreme Court said airport terminals are not public forums, and therefore the decision does not violate the Constitution’s First Amendment.