Popular poker professional Shawn Sheikhan
is facing deportation to Iran thanks to a 1995 conviction for which he already served more than nine months in prison.
Sheikhan served nine months in jail and was put on probation for five years after being convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery charges in 1995. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) actively searches for foreign nationals who were convicted of a sexual crime against children and then tries to get them deported.
According to Sheikhan's lawyer, David Chesnoff, the child in this case was a 17-year-old girl that Sheikhan knew when he was in his early 20s.
"It's not allegations involving a child in the actual meaning of the word, it's a legal definition," Chesnoff told Card Player
. "There's a lot of work to be done on his behalf that's going to be done. He's a good husband and a good father, and a lot of people have problems when they're young that shouldn't follow them for the rest of their lives."
Chesnoff and his legal team are also looking into whether Sheikhan received adequate legal counsel the first time the case was presented in California. If he didn't, then it's possible that these charges could be erased from his record.
The 38-year-old Sheikhan immigrated to the United States when he was nine, has a small child, and is married to an American-born woman. This doesn't matter to ICE, who, through a spokesperson, has said it wants him out of the United States.
Sheikhan was arrested at his Las Vegas home on Aug. 30, and held for five days at the North Las Vegas Detention Center before Chesnoff and his legal team could get him released on a $10,000 bond. ICE wanted to hold Sheikhan until his deportation hearing - it even filed paperwork to stop his release - but a federal judge permitted bail.
"Maybe [ICE] should be looking for guys in Al-Qaeda instead of guys that are good people and, in the context of poker, who entertain people," Chesnoff said.
According to ICE, more than 9,300 people have been deported since Operation Predator began in 2003. Operation Predator is the name of the program that was instated by Homeland Security to protect children from sexual predators. The stated goal of Operation Predator is to "safeguard children from foreign national pedophiles, human traffickers, international sex tourists, and other predatory criminals."
It doesn't matter to ICE or Congress if the foreign national has already faced due process in the United States.
Sheikhan, whose real first name is Shahram, has more than $1.2 million in poker tournament winnings and is one of the most famous poker players in the world, thanks to his repeated clashes with Mike "the Mouth" Matusow
at the World Series of Poker
and on the television show High Stakes Poker
. He has two second-place finishes and two third-place finishes in WSOP
events since 2001.
Update: ICE confirmed that an immigration hearing will take place in Las Vegas Oct. 23. Both sides of the case will be presented, and a dismissal is possible. If the judge decides the case should be heard, then a date will be set at this time.