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Chase Shut Down A Porn Star’s Bank Account Weeks Early After She Went Public

By / 04.30.14
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Chase’s exact reasons for shutting down a number of adult performers’ and directors’ bank accounts this week are still hazy, but one thing we do know is that they’re acting pretty touchy about all the publicity.

If you’ll remember, yesterday I published a letter that former adult actress Teagan Presley and her husband received from Chase. That letter advised them that Chase would be closing their accounts on May 11th. Only, according to Presley’s husband, Josh Lehman, Chase ended up closing the accounts much earlier. About 90 minutes after their story went up on Perez Hilton, to be exact.

Lehman says the response he got from Chase was “Our twitter team saw that your wife posted her account number on Twitter,” and tried to paint the early closure as a fraud protection measure. Only, as you can see in the original image, the only letter published publicly had all of the account numbers blacked out. Clearly the early closure was intended as a punitive measure. You have to enjoy the sheer stupidity of someone picking a fight with exhibitionists and expecting them to keep it private.

Now, Lehman says, his money is basically frozen in limbo and could remain there for up to 90 days.

Chase still isn’t commenting on the closures – which are widespread, with Lehman, Presley, Stoya, Layton Benton, Veronica Avluv, and even more porn stars off the record all reporting having their Chase accounts closed. “Hundreds of accounts” were closed, according to reports. But when Lehman asked why this was happening, he was given three separate reasons.

First, when he went into the bank, he was told that their accounts were being closed because of “the nature of their business.” When he called the loss prevention department, he was told it was because his wife is “an infamous porn star.” Finally, he got a call from someone at the executive branch (presumably a person charged with how best to spin these account closures), who (laughably) denied that Lehman and his wife’s account closures had anything to do with porn. According to Lehman, the spokesperson, Carlos, told him that his account was being closed because Lehman “did business with a convicted felon.” This, a person Lehman had worked with for 20 years.

So what’s going on? In the past, the government has cracked down on banks for failing to monitor suspicious activity – a $2.6 billion fine against JP Morgan (Chase’s parent company) for ignoring Bernie Madoff being one such example – which has in turn led to them doing more and more investigations into clients with “unusual” sources of funds, supposedly as a way to crack down on fraud and money laundering. They’ve basically been shutting down any merchants the FDIC defines as “high risk” – regardless of how legal their business may be – with impunity.

Theoretically, the porn connection is that web cams are a great way to launder money, but that doesn’t explain why Chase would target Lehman and Presley, who Lehman says haven’t even shot porn for a year, are basically retired, and get paid by Viacom. “It was my personal account,” Lehman says. “We never used it for porn business of any kind.”

Why would Chase (and other banks) be going after porn stars, seemingly for little financial gain? Most of the coverage on this so far has been written under the assumption that it’s another way porn stars are stigmatized. Is this really just another case of the morality police? Banks are a lot of things, but moralistic isn’t one of them. One possibility is that porn has been officially tagged as a high risk, and they just figure it’s easier to go after recognizable porn stars than do the research required to identify any specific transactions as high risk. Human laziness and stupidity always seems like a decent explanation.

If you’re more conspiracy minded, there’s always the Operation Choke Point angle that VICE pointed out in their initial coverage. From the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

Operation Chokepoint was launched in 2013 “reportedly to crack down on online payday lenders and others industries identified as ‘high risk’ for fraud.” It has been called “stop-and-frisk for banks….regulators frisk the bank by sending a subpoena for all the financial information on their clients that could potentially be up to no good. If the government finds something suspicious, it investigates further.

Could these closures be a way for Chase to keep the government from investigating further? Obviously, this is totally speculative at this stage, but when a bank goes on a closing spree shutting down the accounts not of porn stars with the shadiest transactions, but some of the most public ones, you naturally wonder if they’re trying to manipulate publicity somehow.

And obviously, that a bank can just freeze someone’s bank account for three months without even accusing that person of doing something illegal, let alone proving it, seems wildly unjust.

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TAGSCHASEJOSH LEHMANPORNPORN STAR BANK ACCOUNT CLOSURESTEAGAN PRESLEY

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