FBI Launch Investigation Into Possible Kidnap of Michigan Poker Champion



  • George Janssen, a former WSOP Michigan champion, was reportedly kidnapped and found bound in December after over a month in captivity.
  • Michigan Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are now investigating the alleged kidnap and extortion.
  • Janssen had won over $200,000 in poker competitions in 2023 alone, with family members suggesting he was targeted for his earnings.

Cash cage scams and ransomware attacks were not the only crimes ongoing in the Michigan gambling scene as 2023 rolled to an end. News reports have emerged suggesting that George Janssen, a Michigan poker player who went missing in November 2023 was kidnapped and extorted by yet to be identified individuals.

Janssen was found by the roadside in Huron County on December 16 after over four weeks in captivity. He was said to have been bound in his hands and with injuries to his face. In his report to federal authorities, Janssen claimed that he was kidnapped and has since caused the FBI to begin investigations into the case.

Alleged Kidnappers Held Janssen in Toledo Area of Ohio

The family of the poker champion reported him missing on November 13, and as Janssen has come to corroborate, he was abducted and held in Toledo, Ohio for over a month. Janssen was later found on Thomas Road in Meade Township, just outside Bad Axe, Michigan.

His hands were tied in zip ties, but managed to flag down a passer-by and explain how he escaped his assailants.

Kelly Hanson, the Huron County Sheriff told reporters that the driver of the automobile Janssen flagged down called 911 and was able to get help.

The audio recording of the 911 call has since been made available.

According to the transcript, the caller told the emergency service line that “There is a suspicious situation going on.”

“Guy’s hands were zip-tied, says he was held captive for a month,” the dispatcher said in the recording.

While recounting his experience to security agencies, Janssen revealed that his alleged kidnap story started while he was about to enter his car in the parking garage of a Michigan casino. A masked man approached him there and then, held a gun to his head and demanded $2 million.

Janssen told the assailant he did not have such money and was then instructed to drive down the street for a meeting with the “other gang members.” Upon getting to the location, the poker champion received a burner phone with instructions that the gang would reach out to him through the line to demand money. In his report, he also claimed that they threatened to harm his family if he did not comply.

Poker Champ in Debt Despite Winning $440K From Tournaments

In the days that followed, Janssen was taken to drop-off locations, told to leave cash in boxes provided, and sometimes, to replace the burner phone. On the day that he finally went missing, Janssen’s car was seen abandoned with $50 notes on the floor.

According to a missing person’s report filed immediately Janssen went missing shows that the victim had mentioned to a friend that he was extorted by a gang of criminals. The report suggests that the extortion had gone on for approximately two years.

“From what we gathered, he was being brought up here to recover some money that was hidden to give to these two assailants,” Sheriff Hanson told reporters.

George Janssen was a four-time World Series of Poker (WSOP) Circuit Ring winner. He was also a former winner of WSOP Michigan. 

The champion’s family believes he could have been targeted for his winnings from online poker. Janssen has grossed $440,763 is tournament earnings according to data from the Hendon Mob database. WSOP winning tables also reveal that he won almost $80K at the Mid-Stakes Poker Tour Ohio Poker State Championship and $82K in September at the Mid-Stakes Poker Tout Venetian $1,600 Main Event.

However, despite these winnings, Janssen had been taking out loans on vehicles to sell through his dealership and was indebted to his bank to the tune of $2 million.

New Details Reveal That Janssen Sent Coded Message During Captivity

On Thursday, January 4, fresh details from a report showed that Janssen sent what could have been a coded message to his family.

About a month after he was allegedly abducted, a family member received a handwritten letter where Janssen asked about the health of relatives. In the letter, he asked about and named six non-existent family members: Kirby, Iggy, Daisey Noah, Anthony, and Parker.

The first letters of the name spell K-I-D-N-A-P and appears to be a cryptic message sent to inform his family about his abduction.

Michigan Police cannot confirm if he was truly kidnapped. 

“We can’t substantiate whether it did happen, or it didn’t happen,” said Hanson. “But there are a lot of things that need to be looked into.”

The FBI has since begun an investigation into the case.

Jessica is a news contributor to Gamble Online Michigan. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Economics but has over three years of experience working in the hospitality and gambling industry. Despite her core finance and investment banking background, she has been a casino feature writer for N1 Interactive Limited and multiple gambling affiliate sites. Her work has been featured on the bet365 blog, casino.zone and Max Force Racing. She spends her time between Michigan and California, staying up-to-date on the latest industry developments