Florida Failed to Reach a New Gambling Compact with the Seminole Tribe

Casino Watch Focus and routinely reported on the ongoing efforts to expand gambling in Florida, almost of which either impact or will be impacted by the existing Seminole Tribe gambling compact. The general consensus is that efforts to expand gambling will be put on hold until a new agreement comes to terms. An online Indian Gambling source indicates that Florida Gov. Rick Scott has failed to reach a new agreement:

The Seminole Tribe celebrates a Decade of Rock at its Seminole Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Florida. Photo from Facebook

The Seminole Tribe and Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) failed to negotiate a new Class III gaming compact but talks are likely to resume later this year.

The two parties started negotiations earlier this year. News reports at one point indicated a deal was imminent but nothing happened before lawmakers ended their session in May.

“I don’t think anybody thumbed their noses at anybody else, but I know it was unsuccessful,” Barry Richard, an attorney who represents the tribe, told The Tampa Tribune.

Talks are likely to resume after the November election — Scott is seeking a second term in office. The compact is due to expire in mid-2015.

 For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


Brief Look at Crime 08/18 – 08/24

2 Men that Ran Offshore Gambling Ring Due in Court 

Rochester, N.Y. – Two of the men accused of running a local gambling ring that had former Buffalo Sabres captain, Thomas Vanek, and another pro-hockey player questioned because of it will be in court today. Joseph Ruff and Paul Borrelli are accused of running a multi-million dollar gambling ring out of the Marina Restaurant and Bar in Charlotte. Prosecutors say that the gambling took place through off shore websites but winnings were paid out through local banks. Ruff and Borrelli could face 25-years in prison if they are convicted in addition to paying several hundred-thousand dollars in fines and surrender $76 Million in wages and assets. 

Man left three children alone inside vehicle while gambling

An Easton man allegedly left his three young children alone in his vehicle Wednesday morning while he gambled at the Sands casino. Maurice Cook, 30, of the 600 block of Wolf Avenue, is charged with reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child. He was sent to Northampton County Prison under $30,000 bail. Bethlehem police said Cook’s three children — ages 1, 5 and 8 — were in the vehicle for 45 minutes with the doors locked until they were freed by police. Cook admitted he has a gambling addiction and was in the casino playing blackjack, police said. “A concrete parking garage is not a baby sitter,” Chief Mark DiLuzio said. “This is totally unacceptable.”

Man sentenced for stealing from employees’ 401(k)

A former part owner of a real estate company who pleaded guilty to stealing more than $600,000 from his employees’ 401(k)  accounts has been sentenced to two years in prison. Michael A. Stortini was also ordered to pay restitution at sentencing Monday in federal court in Wilmington. Stortini was managing member and part owner of the Frank Robino Cos. Prosecutors say in 2009, the company went through difficult financial times and Stortini misappropriated funds from the employees’ retirement plan to pay operating expenses. Authorities say Stortini also embezzled money for himself, and spent $500,000 at casinos.

94 detained in cockfighting raid 

Police in the central province of Nghe An on Friday said they detained 94 people following a raid of a cockfighting operation in Nam Dan District. The raid on Thursday afternoon was carried out after police were tipped off about illegal cockfight gambling at the house of Trinh Thi Phuong, 65. Officers seized VND184 million ($9,200) and $300 in cash as well as 22 live roosters. Cao Tien Mai, the district’s chief police officer, told Thanh Nien that the detainees were being questioned about their role in the ring.

Man admits preying on Lower Burrell neighbor, taking more than $100K in money, goods 

A Lower Burrell widow tearfully described to a Westmoreland County judge Wednesday how a neighbor befriended her and her son for almost two decades before learning that he was “preying” on them to feed his gambling habit. Sarah O’Neill, 52, was in court to hear Mark E. Bellini, 60, plead guilty to charges of burglary, criminal trespass, theft, and receiving stolen property as part of a plea bargain agreement. O’Neill estimated that Bellini stole jewelry and sports memorabilia worth more than $100,000. After listening to O’Neill, Judge Christopher Feliciani said he regretted approving the plea bargain and scolded Bellini, repeatedly calling his actions “despicable.” “Offering to help Miss O’Neill just so you could learn information in order to steal from her and her son, I find that just despicable. I hope you remember the hurt you caused this woman for the rest of your life,” Feliciani said before imposing the sentence.

Rapist who kept woman as sex slave and tried to strangle her jailed

A rapist who kidnapped a student and kept her as a sex slave was today jailed for 17 years. Abdul Hanif, 30, imprisoned the vulnerable woman in a flat and repeatedly attacked her. She told a court Hanif had destroyed her life. “I can’t smile anymore,” she said. “I feel as if my life has been totally ruined through no fault of my own, because of Abdul Hanif.” The woman has been left psychologically scarred and suicidal. She had initially asked Hanif for help in finding somewhere to live after she met him in London, where she was studying on a student visa from Bangladesh. He promised her a “nice new home” but instead he abducted her and drove her to Bradford, West Yorks. The woman, who was still a virgin, was forced to have unprotected sex. She was also ordered to cook and clean for him over a four month period. When she resisted he tried to throttle her with a mobile phone charger chord. Gambling addict Hanif stripped her of her phone and bank card before plundering her account. Once he had gambled away her money he tried to pimp her for sex.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


UPDATE: New Jersey Gov. Christie Vetoes Attempts to by Legislators to Ignore Supreme Court Decision on Sports Gambling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing saga of the New Jersey legislature’s attempts to legalize sports betting despite clear federal law that prevents such gambling expansion. After the proposed the legislation, the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NCAA and the federal government sued to stop the legislation. The case was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court and the court rejected to hear the case, thereby affirming the lower courts ruling that struck down the law. Not following the clear ruling of the Court, the legislature passed legislation that simply sought to ignore the Court.  The legislation then went to Gov. Christie to become law and he used his power to veto the legislation. An online source explains:

Gov. Chris Christie announced Friday that he vetoed a bill meant to bypass a federal ban and legalize sports betting in New Jersey casinos and racetracks.

Federal judges repeatedly sided with the leagues, and in June the U.S. Supreme Court let the ban stand.

Some gaming attorneys called the bill a creative workaround to the federal ban; others said it was a bizarre end-run around the law. But there was a consensus among them: it was a long shot.

Even if Christie had signed the bill, the plan faced further legal hurdles from the leagues, which might have sued for an injunction to stop the law from taking effect.

 It appears that there are legislators that will work to secure votes enough to overturn Gov. Christie’s veto.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


Brief Look at Crime 08/11 – 08/17

Oklahoma minister indicted in scheme that stole nearly $1M from his nonprofit  

A minister and former executive director of a Tulsa nonprofit organization has been indicted on three counts of wire fraud in a scheme that prosecutors say diverted nearly $1 million from a community center he founded. Willard Lenord Jones, pastor of Greater Cornerstone Baptist Church and former executive director of the Greater Cornerstone Community Center, is alleged to have used community center funds for personal expenses and luxury items that include hotel stays, restaurants, casinos, liquor and automobiles, according to the indictment. He also is accused of failing to report almost $400,000 in income on a 2011 tax form.

Former Manager Sentenced for Fraud

Eva Barroso, a former manager for the $491 million Oklahoma Central Credit Union in Tulsa, was sentenced Tuesday to 27 months in federal prison for bank fraud and income tax evasion. U.S. District Court Judge Gregory K. Frizzell in Tulsa also ordered Barroso to pay restitution of more than $295,000. Barroso, 54, of Broken Arrow, pleaded guilty in May to making at least three false loans in the names of other individuals or entities without their knowledge or authorization and making other fake representations. She used the stolen funds to pay for personal expenses, including multiple ATM withdrawals at various casinos.

Casino lawsuit tied to Blagojevich corruption trial can proceed

A lawsuit which alleges racetrack owners offered to bribe disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to sign legislation that hurt riverboat casinos has been given the green light to go ahead by a federal appeals court. Previously thrown out by a lower court, the lawsuit filed by four casinos centers around tapes played at Blagojevich’s trial, alleging horseracing executive John Johnston offered Blagojevich campaign donations in 2006 and 2008 to pass legislation that forced them to set aside 3 percent of their revenue for horse racing. But the 7th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals on Friday overruled U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kennelly, saying the casinos must be allowed to pursue their claims about the alleged 2008 bribe. The 7th Circuit ruled Friday that “If the Casinos are correct, the Racetracks agreed to pay Governor Blagojevich $100,000 in exchange for his signature on the ’08 Act.”

Men Claim Harrah’s Atlantic City Security Guards Brutally Beat Them

Attorneys for two Philadelphia men who allege they were beaten by security guards at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey are calling for state and federal prosecutors to investigate the separate incidents, both of which were profiled on ABC’s 20/20 news magazine last week. Surveillance video shows the two men being beaten and hauled off by security. College student Sean Oaks is seen emerging from the scuffle with a gash under his one eye.  Rob Coney, an aspiring businessman and one-time basketball stand-out, is seen being struck in the head with a baton by one of the casino’s security guards. “There is no place for this kind of brutal, barbaric conduct by anyone — let alone security officers in a hotel-casino — in a civil society,” said attorney Michael Maggianoduring a Tuesday news conference. “It must be criminally investigated, over and above the civil litigation, and it must be stopped before someone is killed.”

Gambling Contractor Gets 18 Months

After a jury found him guilty last month of contracting with agents to take part in illegal gambling at the Warsaw VFW, James Lee Sparks, 40, was sentenced today in Kosciusko Superior Court I. Sparks faced several felony counts related to the 2011 case, including theft, illegal gambling, corrupt business influence and contracting for the purpose of defrauding the VFW. On July 16, a jury found him guilty of contracting, a Class D felony Deputy prosecutor Mike Miner urged the court to consider jail time for Sparks noting, “This is an unusual situation in that, beyond simply the crime he was convicted for, the underlying fact is he went to the VFW here and essentially [encouraged] a couple older people and enticed them into this scheme. That has resulted in them having criminal convictions as well. The snake in the weeds caused other people to sin,” Miner added. “If not for him, this whole thing would not have occurred.”

Fantasy football and gambling to be targeted by hackers 

Gamblers and fantasy football fans are likely to be targeted by hackers as the new NFL season begins in the US, according to online security expert Robert Siciliano. Hackers will look to exploit enthusiasm for sport to spread malware and collect personal data through drive-by downloads and email attachments, with the popularity of the industries thought to be a draw for crooks. Writing on the McAfee blog, Siciliano said: “Participating in a fantasy football leagues and cyber gambling are two of the biggest attractors of cybercrime. The Fantasy Sports Trade Association estimates that 33 million Americans play fantasy sports, spending $3.6bn per year in the process.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


Last Minute Florida Slot Machine Proposal Voted Down

Casino Watch Focus has reported many times on the attempts to expand gambling in Florida through additional slot machines. Poll numbers indicate that citizens want the final say before gambling expansion is pushed through the legislature and likewise, legislators have slowed the process down by calling for studies and halting various gambling expansion efforts until after a new compact can be negotiated with the Seminole Tribe, who control most of the gambling and slot machines in Florida. That has not stopped some legislators from attempting to persuade local municipalities to put slot referendums on their ballots in hopes of showing some level of support for gambling expansion. Pinellas County commissioners recognized a last minute push to place slot machine expansion on a ballot and vetoed the attempt. MyFox Tampa Bay reports:

The idea of a November referendum on the people’s preference for casino slot machines at Derby Lane was rebuffed Tuesday by Pinellas County commissioners. Derby Lane vice president Richard Winning was not surprised.

“The suggestion of a few legislators, they said you really should put this on the ballot, so we asked for it,” Winning said after Tueday’s decision. “It was a last-minute thing, late deal, and the reaction was predictable.”

Legislators reportedly think local referendums of support would help them change the state’s gambling compact with the Seminoles.

Commissioner Charlie Justice pointed out the issue was added to the agenda over the weekend, and agreed there were too many unanswered questions on a potentially volatile subject.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


Brief Look at Crime 08/04 – 08/10

Quadruple shooting result of illegal gambling house 

KSN is learning new information about why police say four men were shot at a Wichita apartment complex Thursday. It happened at 4 a.m. at the Calvary Tower Apartments. Investigators believe they have uncovered evidence that the scene of the shooting was an illegal gambling house. They say three men lost money while participating in some type of gambling game. They became upset and left the apartment complex. They later returned, forcing their way inside inside to get their money back. That’s when the suspects began shooting up the apartment. Police believe they have the right people in custody.

Gambling loss leads to triple shooting near 12th and Ring

Milwaukee police are investigating a shooting that left three people injured near N. 12th and Ring streets. Investigators say the shooting happened around 11:30 p.m. August 12 after the victims and suspect were gambling outside of a home. The suspect had been losing and left the scene, but later returned with a gun and demanded his money back.  The victims refused and the suspect started firing, injuring two men, ages 20 and 36, and a 26-year-old woman, according to police. The victims’ injuries are non-life threatening and the alleged shooter is in police custody. 

5 accused of laundering money through casino slots

Five Kansas residents are accused of trafficking in marijuana and laundering the profits through slot machines at a Kansas City, Kansas, casino. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says a federal indictment handed down on Wednesday alleges the defendants laundered more than $200,000 in cash by depositing the money into slot machines and then cashing out without playing. The investigation began after the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission contacted the Kansas Bureau of Investigation about suspicious activity at Hollywood Casino. Prosecutors say the defendants were seen depositing large amounts of money in small denominations into the machines, cashing out and redeeming ticket vouchers without making wagers.

Holden woman charged with embezzling nearly $1 million 

A Holden woman is to enter a plea in federal court to an accusation that she stole almost $1 million of her in-laws’ money, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.  Chiao Fang Ku, 46, of Holden, is facing a charge of wire fraud in federal court. The government filed the charge in June, records show.  The in-laws moved from New Jersey to Holden to be closer to their family, including their grandchildren, in October 2008. They sold their home in New Jersey and placed the sale money in a bank account. Authorities accuse Ms. Ku of stealing money from May 2008 to July 2013. She is accused of using the money to pay for credit cards, online gambling and other personal expenses. In total she is accused of stealing more than $950,000, federal records show.

Trial date set for ex-cop, former utility supervisor who allegedly stole $855,000

The couple accused of stealing $855,000 from their ex-employer, South Whitehall Township, are headed to trial this fall in Lehigh County Court. Judge Robert Steinberg during an afternoon hearing scheduled the trial of 70-year-old William Tonkin IV, who served as a South Whitehall police officer, and Nancy A. Tonkin, a 67-year-old former township utilities supervisor, for Dec. 1. The Tonkins, who are free on bail, were charged in May 2013 with stealing $855,000 from South Whitehall between 1999 and 2012. They employed an elaborate embezzlement scheme to skim township residents’ utility payments, authorities say. The couple allegedly used the stolen money to cover their living expenses and fuel a gambling habit. A grand jury report indicates the couple regularly visited Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem and other casinos in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Md. nanny pleads to stealing $400K from employer

A nanny who stole more than $400,000 from the family that employed her has pleaded guilty to mail fraud and identity theft. Federal prosecutors in Greenbelt say that 50-year-old Kadiatu Sahid Kamara (kah-dee-AH’-too sah-HEED’ kuh-MAH’-ruh) of Gaithersburg stole the money over a two-year-period by writing herself checks off the family’s bank account and forging the victims’ signatures. Kamara admitted during a plea hearing Monday that between May 2011 and May 2013, she wrote nearly 120 checks to herself totaling more than $430,000. She admitted using the money to buy a house in Africa and take gambling trips to the casino in Charles Town, West Virginia.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


Brief Look at Crime 07/28 – 08/03

Romanian gambling addict ‘hacked seven-month pregnant wife to death and cut throats  

A gambling-addicted father hacked his pregnant wife and two children to death to save them from torture by loan sharks, police believe. Tunde Keri, 36, and sons Toni, five, and Rafael, 18 months, were found dead at the family home in Val-de-Marne, near Paris, after worried relatives could not contact her on her phone. Construction worker Florin Sebastian Balan, 38, who had moved to France from Romania with his family in 2012, was later arrested and allegedly told police his family were threatened by loan sharks. Both children were found with their throats cut, while seven-months-pregnant Mrs Keri suffered multiple chest and neck wounds.

Operators of illegal gambling website admit to conspiring with organized crime family

Two Springfield men admitted in federal court today to collaborating with an organized crime family to run an illegal sports betting website, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said. In separate cases, Joseph Graziano, the 77-year-old owner of the Costa Rica-based website Beteagle.com, and his employee Dominick “Harpo” Barone, 44, each pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy. The crew, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, was run by Joseph Lascala, 80, of Monroe, a made member of the Genovese family operating in northern New Jersey. LaScala, Graziano and Barone were among 13 men charged with racketeering conspiracy in a 2012 criminal complaint. In court, Graziano agreed to forfeit $1 million to the government, and Barone agreed to forfeit $100,000. Each faces a maximum potential of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Millions reported stolen from Albania central bank

lbania’s central bank says 713 million leke (5 million euros; $6.75 million) has been stolen from its reserve storage building. Authorities arrested two bank employees last week. The Bank of Albania, which is in charge of the country’s price stability and manages 16 private banks, said Wednesday that the cash was stolen over time. It did not provide further details, but insisted that the bank’s operations had not been affected and it was supplying the country’s banking system with the necessary liquidity. Local media reported that one of the suspects acknowledged the theft over the last four years, saying he had spent much of the money on gambling.

Gambling addict faces prison for stealing £140,000 from his employer

A gambling-addicted engineer has admitted stealing more than £140,000 from the Suffolk company he worked for. Stephen Endreson is now likely to receive a jail sentence after pleading guilty to theft by employee at Ipswich Crown Court. The 47-year-old appeared via a video link from Norwich Prison for his plea and case management hearing. Endreson worked for Wrightfield Ltd in Eye at the time of the theft. He was originally accused of stealing £142,559.97 over a two-month period from the firm which manufactures food conveyors. However, prosecutor Martin Ivory told the court the amount had been reassessed. It was now accepted to be £852.97 less, which meant the overall total stolen was £141,707. The offence took place between January 5 this year and March 4. Ian James, representing Endreson, said his client was subject to addictive personality traits. He added that Endreson was receiving counselling while in prison for his gambling issues.

Former conservator admits stealing $120K to feed gambling habit

Former conservator Stephen Grisham said he does not know the exact amount that he stole from people under his control, but he and prosecutors agree it was in the neighborhood of $120,000. Grisham, 53, now faces a presumptive sentence of 24 to 36 months in prison after pleading guilty Monday to a single count of misappropriation by a fiduciary, a felony. The conviction stemmed from Grisham’s role as a professional caretaker of the money and lives of vulnerable adults. In this case, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs investigated Grisham for embezzling benefits for unnamed veterans and other beneficiaries. “I took money that wasn’t mine to feed another addiction,” Grisham told U.S. District Judge John Tunheim. Tunheim asked the nature of that addiction, and Grisham said, “Gambling.”

On Duty Shooting, Gambling Led To Theft 

Sentencing is scheduled for Monday, for a former Hartford Police detective who admitted to stealing almost $30-thousand in concealed weapons permit fees. In a pre-sentencing court filing, federal prosecutors write that Tishay Johnson corrupted his office and betrayed the trust placed in him by the city of Hartford. They ask the judge to issue a sentence of between 6 months and a year in jail. But the defense argued that Johnson took the money to feed his casino gambling addiction, and that he suffered from PTSD, because of an incident in which he was shot while on-duty. Johnson ran the city’s concealed weapons permit program.  He altered hundreds of checks and money orders, to make it look like they had been made payable to him. Federal prosecutors say Johnson stole an average of one or two checks per week, for five years.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


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