Almost getting killed by rattlesnakes didn't stop Matt Sowash from running poker scams

It appears that even deadly snakes couldn't keep Matt Sowash and business partner Andrew Hicks away from poker. As Westword reported Thursday, the two men were arrested this week and accused of five counts of felony securities fraud.

A June CBI affidavit used to obtain warrants for the arrests of both men says Sowash and Hicks had been illegally attempting to solicit investors for a poker tour that would hold Texas Hold 'em tournaments in bars.

Sowash and Hicks previously ran a similar operation called the Amateur Poker Tour (APT), which they shut down in 2007 after APT investor Herb Beck and a "private investigator" he hired, Christopher Steelman, came up with a plan to kill Sowash by kidnapping him, putting his legs inside a box full of rattlesnakes and then removing the box and moving the body outside to a hiking trail so it would look like an accident.

That case was detailed in the 2007 Westword feature, "Free Poker Tour is a Dead Man's Hand." Beck and Steelman have since pleaded guilty to extortion.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation began investigating Sowash, Hicks and the APT in March 2007 and learned that the two men signed up eighteen investors. Of those investors, the CBI determined that eight (who had invested a total of $330,000) were being offered securities for sale and had been promised significant returns on their investments, the affidavit says. But neither man was registered to sell securities in Colorado, and they hadn't listed their company with the Colorado Division of Securities.

Sowash (who began using the name Matt Bradford in 2008) and Hicks later sold the APT tour, but started a new venture in January 2008 called Royal Flush Group Incorporated, and began soliciting investors again, the affidavit claims. Two potential investors contacted the CBI a month later, so investigators sent an undercover officer to a meeting with Sowash.

Since then, the CBI has been monitoring Sowash and Hicks, their company and their website, In June, the agency obtained a warrant for the arrests of both men, and picked them up earlier this week.

Neither man has been formally charged and both posted $20,000 bonds. Sowash is scheduled for a hearing in Jefferson County on July 31; Hicks for August 3.

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes