Florida State Sen. President Might Back Voter-Approved Slot Machines Which Could Further Complicate Seminole Compact Negotiations

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the recent voter-approved slot machines measures that could lead to an expansion of gambling in the state. The issue at hand is that the areas where these slot machines were voted on are not areas that the state has approved for gambling. A Florida Supreme Court ruling on the matter will likely clarify an existing and similar case by ruling that gambling expansion in Florida is limited by the constitution and must have approval of the legislature. However, there are signals that the new Florida State Senate President might actual back such voter-approved gambling expansion measures. The Sun Sentinel Explains: 

Voters in Duval and St. Lucie counties last month approved referendums to allow slot machines at pari-mutuel facilities, joining six other counties that had done so earlier. But the lucrative machines have not started whirling in the counties as the gambling industry, regulators and lawmakers watch a case at the Florida Supreme Court and legal issues involving the Seminole Tribe of Florida. At a breakfast meeting Tuesday with reporters, Negron said he thinks the Legislature should follow the will of voters if slot machines are approved in referendums.

There are implications beyond just the two pari-mutuel facilities mentioned. Allowing such expansion could also impact the Seminole Compact negotiations with Florida State as well. The Sun Sentinel continues:

But negotiations about a revised compact also could involve whether the tribe would have exclusive rights to offer slot machines outside of Broward and Miami-Dade counties — and how that would affect the counties where voters have approved referendums. Negron said Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who is slated to become the next Senate president, will take the chamber’s lead in discussions about the compact. If a deal is reached with the tribe, it would have to be approved by the Legislature. 

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A Brief Look at Crime 12/19-12/25

JPMorgan Chase Charged in Stealing $5 Mil From Bank to Pay Off Gambling Debts

A former JPMorgan Chase & Co employee who has been ordered to attend counseling for gambling is facing criminal charges that he engaged in a scheme to defraud the bank out of $5 million in order to pay personal debts. The complaint against Obracanik did not identify JPMorgan by name. But a profile for him on LinkedIn said that he had worked for the bank in Texas. A spokesman for JPMorgan declined co comment. The bank is based in New York. According to the complaint, from July 2014 to February 2016, Obracanik made or tried to make 22 wire transfers for more than $5 million from an account at a bank that was apparently JPMorgan to an account at another bank belonging to an unnamed individual. The complaint said that during an interview with two Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in August, Obracanik admitted wiring the money to that person’s account and said that he had done so to pay personal debts.

Woman Accused of Embezzling $500K From Employer Used it For Gambling

A woman arrested for allegedly embezzling $500,000 from her employer in Escondido, pleaded not guilty in court on Friday. Prosecutors say Sheila Jo Jackson, 46, was stealing the money from Betz Concrete to fuel a gambling addiction. She faces several felony charges including embezzlement by employee, forgery, grand theft and identity theft Prosecutors say Jackson’s employer told her to close the company’s Bank of America account back in 2012, but she secretively kept them open, using her position as office manager to have continued access to them. “Its just unfortunate when a small family owned business, the owner who was on site and trying to grow his business,” said Deputy District Attorney Anna Winn. In November, a bank employee noticed the suspicious signatures and contacted the owner. Escondido police reached out to local casinos and found a player’s card registered under Jackson’s name. The car had been frequently used over the span of five years, indicated that she had been at slot machines where more than $1,000,000 was played. 

Woman who beat her husband to death pleads guilty to manslaughter

An Edmonton woman who beat her husband to death with various items, including a broken curtain rod, pleaded guilty to manslaughter Friday. Nyuk Len Hwang, 55, was charged with second-degree murder for the Aug. 25, 2013, killing of Teck Hwang, 56; however, the Crown accepted her plea to the lesser and included offence. According to an agreed statement of facts, Hwang repeatedly hit her husband of 27 years with the shower curtain rod, a two-by-four piece of wood, a stone pestle, a yellow wooden stick and a red metal broom handle during a protracted argument over his gambling problem throughout the day at their northeast Edmonton home. And when the victim was unconscious, Hwang bit him on the inner thigh in an attempt to wake him.

Dozens arrested had mob ties in gambling ring bust 

The Genovese crime family controlled an offshore gambling venture through which members of four area mob groups placed millions of dollars in illicit sports bets, authorities charged Wednesday. Prosecutors accused more than 40 alleged mobsters, associates and wannabes of running the ring, which they said boasted more than 12,000 customers nationwide and raked in about $300,000 a week for the nation’s most powerful Mafia family. Capping an investigation by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office and the New Jersey State Police, more than 100 officers fanned out across North Jersey early Wednesday, executing 25 search warrants at homes and businesses. Those arrested included Joseph “The Eagle” Gatto, who controlled one of two Costa Rican “wire rooms” that accepted the bets from associates of the Genovese, Lucchese, Bonanno/Massino and Gambino crime families, authorities said.

Former Basehor, Kan., business owner sentenced for $856,000 tax fraud 

The former owner of a Basehor, Kan., business was sentenced Tuesday to a year in prison for failing to pay more than $850,000 in payroll taxes. Elizabeth Lucero, 53, of Basehor, was ordered to pay $856,784 in restitution as part of Tuesday’s sentencing in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan. Lucero owned Sunshine Home Health Care Center in Basehor. From 2007 to 2011, she withheld taxes from employee paychecks, but failed to turn the money over to the federal government. During that time, company funds were used to pay Lucero’s personal expenses, including money spent on gambling and a $50,000 Cadillac Escalade, according to federal prosecutors.

Court awards pension to wife of URI clerk who embezzled tuition money

A Superior Court judge has ruled that the wife of a former University of Rhode Island employee who stole students’ payments can receive a portion of his pension, but not until after her husband fully pays the $200,000 in restitution he owes. Judge Jeffrey Lanphear agreed to allow Diane Randall to receive a $1,667 monthly pension as the “innocent” spouse of Fred L. Randall, a longtime state employee who admitted to embezzling $200,000 in tuition payments from URI from 2004 until 2011 to fund his his addiction to gambling. “As indicated, she is free from guilt, but not necessarily free from fault as she not only gambled, but received compensation in the form of casino rewards for the large amounts gambled,” Lanphear wrote. “Mrs. Randall’s receipt of some benefit from the illicit scheme, as minor as it may or may not be, necessarily factors into whatever discretion the court may have in meting out an award as justice may require.”

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UPDATE: Florida States Asks Judge to Reconsider Seminole Compact Ruling, Judge Declines

Casino Watch Focus has reported that a Federal Judge recently ruled in favor of the Seminole Nation regarding the state’s gambling compact with them. The issue at hand involved exclusivity rights on table games the fact that Florida authorized them at other gambling facilities. That part of the compact has come to an end and a new one is being negotiated, but even prior to its end, they were allowing games that violated the compact. The judge said as a result, the Tribe could continue to offer table games through 2030. Of course, this means the Florida legislature is at a negotiating disadvantage with the Seminole’s as they attempt to forge a new compact. Knowing the position they are in does help to ensure they will attempt to get a new compact in place quickly, but that hasn’t stopped them from trying to over turn the ruling and get back the negotiation leverage they lost. The Sun Sentinel explains: 

A federal judge has flatly refused a request from Gov. Rick Scott ‘s administration to reconsider a ruling that Florida violated a gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued a two-page order late Tuesday, less than a week after attorneys for Scott and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation submitted a 33-page document requesting changes in Hinkle’s Nov. 9 ruling in favor of the tribe.

“This case was tried to the court. A written opinion set out the court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law. The defendant has moved to alter or amend the judgment,” Hinkle wrote in the order. “For the most part, the motion simply reargues the merits. The original opinion correctly analyzes the issues. This order denies the motion to alter or amend.”

In the request for reconsideration, attorneys for the state raised a series of issues about Hinkle’s November ruling, including disputing his conclusion that “designated player games” meet the definition of banked card games and, as a result, violate the 2010 agreement. But attorneys for the tribe countered Friday by urging Hinkle to reject the state’s request for reconsideration. “The court found that the designated player games are ‘banked card games’ based upon reasonable interpretations of (federal and state laws), common understanding of the term in the gaming industry, testimony of both expert and lay witnesses, and legislative history,” the tribe’s attorneys wrote in a six-page document. “The state ignores virtually all of that evidence, disregards the court’s reasoning, and presents its argument as though there had been no comprehensive briefing on the relevant issues and no trial.”

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A Brief Look at Crime 12/12-12/18

CEO Of Veterans Credit Union Gets Prison For $2 Million Theft

The former president and CEO of the Veterans HealthAdministration Credit Union will spend just over two years in prison for stealing nearly $2 million. The Attorney General’s office says Fuataina Afutiti of Westland, who worked out a plea deal for embezzling the money, will also have to pay $1.9 million in restitution. The agreement calls for Afutiti to spend 30 months to up to 20 years in prison. Investigators say Afutiti used the money on luxury cars, gambling and vacations. The missing money was found during an audit by the state Department of Insurance and FinancialServices. The credit union closed earlier this year after the embezzlement was discovered. “This person not only took advantage of her position within the credit union but took advantage of military veterans, many of who are disabled or on a fixed income,” Attorney General Bill Schuette said in a statement. “Individuals who served and sacrificed for this country deserve the utmost respect and instead the members of the credit union were victimized. I am pleased to see this verdict.”

450,000 children gambling every week, commission warns

Some 450,000 children aged between 11 and 15 are gambling on a weekly basis, new research from the Gambling Commission, a Government regulatory body, has warned. The report revealed that 9,000 of those children are likely to be ‘problem gamblers’, despite 60 per cent of those surveyed agreeing that gambling is dangerous. Of the 2,411 children sampled from 103 state secondary schools in England and Wales, gambling was more prevalent in boys than girls. According to the research, boys gambled double the amount girls did in the week prior to the study, with the report showing that, across Europe, boys were generally more likely to gamble than girls.

Caroline Dumont of Swanscombe siphoned off £1m from firm and gambled it

A book­keeper who gambled away almost £1m of company funds has been ordered to pay back just £57,741. Caroline Dumont, who is serving three years and four months, systematically siphoned off money from three firms in New Ash Green and Aylesford for almost three years. One company was forced into liquidation and the second, set up to save staff jobs, would have sunk within a year if the deceit had not been discovered. The boss of plant hire company Tara Holdings and later Aylesford-­based Tara Ltd, had to use his own money to keep the business afloat. Prosecutor Bridget Todd told Maidstone Crown Court in December last year: “It is obvious from close examination of her bank accounts that she has a gambling habit that is entrenched and relentless.”

Man shot over gambling debt 

Officers from the Palm Beach Gardens Police say a man was shot over an apparent gambling dept Monday morning. The incident happened near Alternate A1A and Gardens Parkway, near the Gardens Mall. Police say the victim, Antonio Smith Jr., was transported to a local hospital for non-life threatening injuries and has since been released. Smith identified his shooter as 20-year-old Anthony Mattys. Authorities say Mattys shot Smith over money. Mattys was later arrested on Wednesday and taken to the Palm Beach County Jail, where he has been charged with attempted second degree homicide with a firearm, shooting into an occupied vehicle and discharging a firearm from a vehicle.

Pair admit to roles in $400K gambling scheme at casino

A former Mohegan Sun Pocono casino executive and a Back Mountain man who won more than $422,000 in a gambling scheme, folded Thursday, pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering. Robert Pellegrini, a former vice president of player development at the casino, and Mark Heltzel face up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine under the maximum terms of their plea agreements to the felony charge. The men also agreed to make full restitution. A federal grand jury indicted the men in April, alleging they conspired with Poszeluznyj in the scheme that ran from May 2014 to April 2015 and involved personal identification numbers stolen from approximately 160 gamblers. According to the indictment: Poszeluznyj stole the PINs from the rewards cards of patrons she served and gave the information to Heltzel, with whom she had a personal relationship. Heltzel in turn gave the information to Pellegrini, who duplicated the cards and put approximately $478,000 free-play credits on the duplicates. The cards are used in slot machines and gain points to be cashed in for casino perks such as free drinks and hotel rooms. Heltzel gambled with the cards and split $422,147 with his partners. He and Pellegrini took the largest shares.

Feds quietly seized millions from online casinos’ money movers

In the spring of 2011, a Seattle Police Department detective hit it big on Betus.com. The undercover detective had joined the online casino and sportsbook as part of an investigation into companies that move its money. A Western Union check to the Philippines funded his gambling; a wire transfer into a dummy bank account paid by his winnings. That sting operation enabled members of a Seattle-based U.S. Secret Service taskforce to seize $3.4 million from Thames Point Management, one of the money processors working with the casino. If those companies’ operators cared, they haven’t mentioned it – the firms didn’t bother fighting a civil action brought by federal prosecutors looking to keep the money. The seizure represented a large portion of the $21 million collected in 2015 through forfeiture actions initiated by federal prosecutors in Western Washington.

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Online Gambling Ban efforts Hope to find Success in Congress under the upcoming Trump Administration

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to reverse the Obama Administration’s stance on online gambling. Federal Law clearly made the activity illegal but the Obama Administration use the courts to provide a very controversial interpretation of the Wire Act. Many efforts have been made to reverse this course, but none have succeeded under Obama’s Administration. Many believe once he leaves office, there will be real movement in restoring online gambling bans and a new bill has been filed with that very intent. An online source explains: 

Pennsylvania Republican Representative Michael Fitzpatrick has introduced legislation to the US House that would ban online gambling at a federal level.

The “RAWA-esque” bill HR 6453 appeared on Capitol Hill last week, December 7, and is co-sponsored by Representative Bobby Rush (D-Illinois) and longstanding online gaming opponent, Representative Charles Dent (R-Pennsylvania). It’s been coming. The dark clouds began to gather last week when ten attorney generals from states across the US wrote to petition the incoming Trump administration to impose a federal ban on online gambling.

“The risks to our citizens are real and extensive,” explained the AGs. “The ability for youth to access online gaming sites presents a significant risk to teens, a risk more easily mitigated at traditional brick-and-mortar establishments.”

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A Brief Look at Crime 12/05-12/11

Argument over money preceded fatal game room shooting

A 26-year-old man charged in the shooting death of a 24-year-old man at an illegal McCully game room argued about money with the victim before gunfire broke out, according to a court document. A preliminary hearing for the suspect, Nathaniel Foster, is scheduled for Wednesday on a second-degree murder charge in connection with the death of Kioco Melson. Foster is being held in lieu of $1 million bail. The witness said he saw the two men arguing with each other as Melson sat in a chair and Foster stood near the door of the game room. Police said Foster then pulled out a black semi-automatic gun from his fanny pack and shot Melson multiple times, said the court document. Another witness said he heard both men talking about money before Foster abruptly opened the door and allegedly shot Melson several times. The document said Foster then stood over Melson as he was laying on the floor and shot him several more times before he fled.

Supervisor stole more than $900K from her credit union to feed gambling habit

She stole more than $900,000 from her credit union employer then lost it all feeding a crippling gambling addiction. But a personal history marked by tragedy, an anxiety disorder and possible bi-polar disorder was not enough to keep Rosalie Gurske out of prison, a judge ruled Tuesday. Gurske has had “a sad life… but that is not a reason to steal,” Judge Murray Thompson said before sentencing Gurske to 42 months in prison. “She is still responsible for her actions.” Court heard Gurske, 51, was a supervisor with the Crosstown Civic Credit Union`s Winnipeg Square branch and was responsible for its daily cash supply. Over the course of six years, ending in January 2013, Gurske diverted cash from the credit union`s treasury accounts into her own hands and manipulated ledger records to cover her tracks.

Two charged for conducting $2 million gambling operation in Phoenix

Police have arrested a man and a woman after a 17-month long investigation. According to reports, officials from the Arizona Department of Gaming infiltrated several “Sweepstake Internet Cafe” in the Phoenix area to investigate possible illegal gambling on computer style casino games. It was discovered that the two were using money obtained by these illegal cafes and gambling at legitimate casinos in order to, presumably, launder their money. They were making roughly $10,000 a week, totaling $2 million since June 2015.

3 injured in northwest Miami-Dade storefront shooting

Three men were injured Tuesday night in a shooting outside a northwest Miami-Dade County store. The shooting was reported about 7 p.m. outside the Midway Foodmart at 8201 NW 17th Avenue. Miami-Dade police Detective Daniel Ferrin said the men were standing in front of the store when they were shot by someone inside a light-colored SUV. Witnesses said the passenger inside the SUV got out and opened fire at the men, who were gambling on the side of the store. They said the shooter got back inside the SUV and fled east on Northwest 82nd Street.

Douglas Miller was charged with attempted murder over Chester-le-Street attack on his wife

A GAMBLING addict who tried to suffocate his ill wife and also stole £20,000 from her and his frail mother-in-law has been spared jail after a judge said it was right to extend a degree of mercy to him. Douglas Miller was originally charged with attempted murder after placing a pillow over the head of his wife, an MS sufferer. Teesside Crown Court heard that Miller, who lived with his wife in Murray Place, Chester-le-Street, County Durham, was her full-time carer and stole from her to fund an addiction to slot machines. Shortly before the attack on January 12 last year the woman had become suspicious that cash was going missing from bank accounts belonging to her and her mother, over whom she had power of attorney because of herdementia. The mother-of-three, who married Miller in November 1994 and whose children are from a previous relationship, said in a witness statement: “I have lived a lie for the past 20 years.” She said she felt betrayed by what Miller had done and that her mother treated him like a son. She said: “It is despicable and unforgiveable for him to treat a woman with dementia like that.”

Restaurant owner to state prison for stealing couple’s $315K

A Pennsylvania restaurant owner must spend 18 months to five years in prison for stealing $315,000 from a mentally disabled couple. County prosecutors believe 46-year-old Alfonso Picone spent the cash receipts from his La Dolce Casa restaurant to feed a gambling addiction, then stole from the couple to replenish those funds. The restaurant is based in Tamaqua, whose residents turned out in force at Picone’s Monday sentencing, describing him as a charitable pillar of the community. Deputy Attorney General Michelle Laucella says Picone’s crimes were “cold and calculated” and saying he took advantage of the elderly victims.

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Florida Greyhound Deaths Continue to Place Black Mark on Gambling Racing Industry

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many issues the dog racing industry faces in Florida. Its an industry on the verge of collapse and the treatment of the animals has been more than a sore spot. After a series of reports surfaced outlining the death of dogs and other mismanagement, the industry came under fire and the hope was the pressure would improve the situation. After the Greyhound Protection Act passed in Seminole County, the rule requiring reporting of injuries and other industry regulations has been pushed as a statewide measure through an Initiative Petition. Florida already requires the reporting of deaths of dogs, and those numbers continue to climb despite the widespread negative press the industry is receiving. An online source reports: 

A racing greyhound named F.F. Maverick had just sprinted out of the starting gate at the Daytona Beach Kennel Club and was about to make the first turn when the 2-year-old dog bumped into two other greyhounds. Video posted on the racing website raceinfo.com on September 28th shows F.F. Maverick tumble on the sandy surface and roll several times before disappearing off the track. A track veterinarian later determined F.F. Maverick “suffered a severe neck injury” that was “catastrophic and not repairable,” according to a state investigative report. The greyhound, believed to be less than 2 years old, was euthanized as a result of the racing injury, records show. “It is a particularly violent death.

There’s no doubt Maverick suffered greatly before he died,” said Carey Theil, executive director of GREY2K USA. “It’s a terrible case. But it is one of many.”

Theil’s organization, which is pushing to end dog racing, has been compiling information about greyhound deaths since Florida lawmakers began requiring race tracks to report fatalities on their property more than three years ago.

Since May 2013, at least 360 greyhounds have died at Florida tracks, state reports compiled by GREY2K indicate, an average of one death every three or four days. At least 52 of those were reported at the Daytona Beach Kennel Club, where F.F. Maverick suffered the fatal injury. Only one other Florida track, Derby Lane in St. Petersburg, reported more deaths with 54. “That is absolutely unacceptable,” said Theil. “It’s something the track should be held to account for, and it’s something the local community should be very concerned about.” 

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