Monthly Archives: November 2009

A brief look at crime Nov 16- Nov 22

Woman who stole $28,600 from senior gets year in jail

A former caregiver who fuelled her gambling addiction by bilking an elderly woman out of more than $28,000 in savings is going to jail. Carol Jean McQuade, 60, was handed a one-year jail term and two years of probation at a sentencing hearing Friday. She will have until the end of her probation to pay $28,600 in restitution to the woman, a 92-year-old retired nurse who served in Europe during the Second World War.

Miller woman pleads to bank embezzlement

A judge has accepted Susan Mareska’s guilty plea to bank embezzlement as part of a plea agreement in which federal prosecutors will dismiss other charges when she is sentenced in December. Court documents put the loss over a 7-year period at $152,909 or more to American Bank & Trust of Miller, where Mareska was employed. According to a factual basis statement filed in court, the 50-year-old woman developed a gambling habit and took interest, money from certificates of deposit, interest retirement accounts, war bond money and other distributions from elderly bank customers who likely would not realize the money was missing.

2 Men In Custody In Cockfighting Ring

Douglas County Sheriff Ken McGovern said two men were taken into custody after a raid Tuesday at a Eudora farm. Authorities said it was a breeding location for cockfighting roosters. The sheriff said Ezqueil Olivas was arrested and accused of three counts of cockfighting and a count of possessing cockfighting paraphernalia.

Ark. man allegedly defrauded NLR bidding process

An Arkansas man running an illegal gambling operation conspired with a North Little Rock alderman and a contractor to rig city bids to collect on debts, a federal grand jury indictment unsealed Monday alleges. George Wylie Thompson, 64, of Cabot was arrested in Bangkok, Thailand and later brought to Los Angeles, U.S. Attorney Jane Duke said. An investigation into Thompson’s gambling operation led FBI agents to discover the bid-rigging scheme in North Little Rock that involved concrete purchases and landscaping project, Duke said.

Adviser admits $9M investor scam

A longtime financial adviser from Monmouth County pleaded guilty yesterday to bilking investors out of more than $9 million, authorities said. He claimed the fund, which he created in 1992 and called Health Care Financial Partners, had more than $300 million in assets made up of loans to health care facilities such as nursing homes. But in truth, Smith deposited the money into his own bank accounts and used it for dining at restaurants, gambling and traveling abroad, authorities said.

Vegas fraud a sign of the times

That’s what appears to be happening at many casinos today at least, according to a panel of security experts that spoke Monday during the first day of conferences at the Global Gaming Expo. The panel said that despite new technology, or perhaps because of it, many of the crimes that casino security people are seeing today are updates of old scams.

“When there is nothing new they can create, they go back to the old,” said Jessie Beaudoin, senior director of surveillance at the Hard Rock Hotel. “A lot of the things you hear about are not new scams, per se. But they’re trends that are starting to rear their ugly heads again.”

22 Held in Staten Island Betting and Loan Sharking Raids

Twenty-two people, including reputed members of organized crime families and a New York State court officer, were arrested on loan sharking and gambling charges in early-morning raids on Staten Island. “These investigations uncovered the intricate network that organized crime families had developed in Staten Island,” said Daniel M. Donovan, the Richmond County district attorney.

Massive Illegal Gambling Bust Yields 38 Arrests, $32,000

Illegal gambling busts have been on the rise over the last year, spread across multiple states. One of the most recent stings came in Galveston and Texas City, Texas. Thirty-eight were arrested, one of which was charged with a felony, during two similtaneous raids. Sportsbetting was the operation in question, and it was presumed that players would be trying to collect on their college football wagers from the day previous.

PA Gaming Control Board Fines Casino for Underage Gambling Violations

A $24,000 fine was levied today by the Commonwealth’s gaming oversight agency on a south central Pennsylvania casino operator for three separate violations dealing with underage gambling. During the past two years, the Gaming Control Board has levied fines statewide on six occasions for violations of underage gambling or minors on the gaming floor totaling $211,500.

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

UPDATE: Dan Lee, CEO of Pinnacle, resigns after an investigation into his behavior was launched

Casino Watch Focus reported that the Missouri Gaming Commission was investigating the strong-arm incident at a recent casino rezoning meeting.  Now, The St Louis Post Dispatch is reporting that Daniel Lee has resigned as the CEO of Pinnacle Entertainment Inc.:

The veteran casino industry executive resigned his job atop Pinnacle on Monday, two days after Missouri gambling regulators launched an investigation into his conduct at last week’s meeting of the St. Louis County Council. In a statement, the gambling company said Lee was quitting “to pursue other business interests.”

A spokesman said Pinnacle would not otherwise comment beyond its statement, which thanked Lee for his seven years of service and for building Pinnacle from a “small casino company to a developer and operator of world-class gaming entertainment properties.”

Daniel Lee has a long history of unsavory comments and behavior.  The Post continues:

Long before his confrontation with a local lawmaker Tuesday, Lee — a frank, fast-talking former Wall Street analyst — had a reputation as something of a character.

He regularly made snide comments about competitors, once referring to Creve Coeur-based Isle of Capri Casinos as “the Motel 6 of the industry,” and describing the Casino Queen in East St. Louis as “surrounded by razor wire.”

[His] company also joined Ameristar Casinos in a campaign to overturn Missouri’s $500 loss limit last fall. Pinnacle poured $7.7 million into a ballot initiative that would end the limits.

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

A brief look at crime Nov 9- Nov 15

Financial, Extramarital Affairs Linked To Family In Murder-Suicide

In the months since the suspected triple murder-suicide, Seminole County Sheriff’s Office investigators have tried to figure what could have prompted the husband to kill his family and then himself.  Investigators say friends of the family told them there was stress because of money trouble, gambling, and an alleged open relationship.

It was a horrifying discovery by a cleaning crew as they came to the Wood’s Heathrow home on a June Monday morning. Cindy Wood was found dead in her bedroom.  J.D. Wood was dead in the living room.  Their 10-year-old son, Dillon, was dead on the couch, and 12-year-old daughter, Aubrey, was found dead in her pink pajamas in bed.  Authorities say all of them were shot in the head.

Woman arrested for leaving children alone

A Waterloo woman who allegedly left her children home alone while she visited a casino has been charged. Police arrested 25-year-old Latoya Enjoli Donald on Wednesday on five counts of misdemeanor child endangerment. Court records indicate the children were left alone for about 3 1/2 hours the evening of March 19. Authorities found the children, ranging in ages from one to eight years old, after the mother was detained at the Isle Casino Hotel for allegedly violating a no-contact order.

Stranger Saves Assault Victim, Police Say

Police credit a stranger and a security camera for leading to an arrest in an attempted rape at the Ameristar Casino recently. Clay County prosecutors charged Manoxay J. Salivanh with attempted rape on Tuesday. Police said a 23-year-old woman was in the parking garage at the casino earlier this month when Salivanh followed her into the elevator and attacked her, officers said. Police said a man heard the screams and ran to help. “Somebody getting involved — taking the opportunity to do that even though they put themselves at risk — really helped save this woman from this sexual attack,” Capt. Rich Lockhart said.

Mental exam ordered for man jailed in Fresno school embezzling

A former business manager who has admitted stealing $422,000 from a tiny southwest Fresno school district was in jail Thursday after a judge ordered him to undergo a mental evaluation. The burglary charge stems from stealing a district computer’s hard drive in an attempt to cover up the theft, prosecutors say.  LoStracco said Robinson stole money to feed his gambling addiction. Robinson’s desire to change his life led to him being caught and pleading guilty to the charges, LoStracco said.

Ex-director admits $97,000 theft to gamble

The former executive director of Communities in Schools of Southeast Texas has pleaded guilty to stealing $97,000 from the nonprofit organization to fuel his gambling habit. Vernon Dunn, 53, is scheduled to appear Dec. 7 before 252nd District Judge Layne Walker for sentencing. He faces up to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. He also is eligible for probation.

AMK suicide tragedy: Deceased Ng Chee Kiang used to splurge on his wife who likes branded stuff


The deceased Ng Chee Kiang, who set fire on his flat before plunging down from 12 stories to his death was reported by Chinese daily Lianhe Wanbao to be a devoted husband who doted on his wife. Mr Ng was reported to owe loansharks thousands of dollars who frequently came to harass his family. Unable to withstand his gambling habits, his wife wanted to divorce him.

Gambling problem led to embezzling for first selectman’s wife

Laura Smith embezzled $47,983.62 from deposits at the Deep River branch of Liberty Bank at 151 Main St. and used the money to gamble at casinos, according to the warrant for her arrest on a first-degree larceny charge. Smith, who told police that her gambling was “out of control,” lost a total of $408,887 at Mohegan Sun since January 2001 and $10,745 at Foxwoods Resort Casino since 1992, according to the warrant.

Buffalo Woman Charged with Stealing from Senior Center

According to prosecutors, a gambling addiction pushed a 71-year-old woman to swindle more than $93,000 from the senior citizens home she was hired to manage. The criminal complaint filed in the case shows Goodwin bet more than $1.7 million between 2001 and 2008. Police investigators asked Goodwin if she knew what she was doing was wrong. They said she answered “absolutely” but said the gambling addiction was too strong.

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

Missouri Gaming Commission Looking into Pinnacle CEO’s strong-arm incident

Casino Watch reported the extraordinary story of Pinnacle’s CEO Daniel Lee, who used some questionable methods to try to influence a recent rezoning vote that could have implications for the President Casino.  Now The St Louis Post Dispatch is reporting that the Missouri Gaming Commission is launching an investigation into the act:

Investigators are looking into the behavior of Pinnacle Entertainment Inc.’s CEO during a zoning vote by the St. Louis County Council this week on a casino complex being developed by another company.

Gaming Commission Executive Director Gene McNary said Friday that the inquiry is being conducted by members of the Missouri Highway Patrol, who perform investigations for the commission.

A spokeswoman for Las Vegas-based Pinnacle, Pauline Yoshihashi, said the company will fully cooperate with any investigation.

The Post explains that the investigation was encouraged by State Senator Tim Green:

State Sen. Tim Green, D-St. Louis, said Friday that he had written to the Gaming Commission asking for further scrutiny. The commission told him it had already started making inquiries.

“I think it’s very serious when a CEO with two gaming licenses threatens an elected official,” particularly during a meeting, Green said. “It’s just wrong.”

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

A brief look at crime Nov 2- Nov 8

Ex-employee held for Oshrenko family massacre

A 39-year-old man has been in police custody for several days on suspicion of having perpetrated the worst multiple homicide in Israel’s history last month, in which six members of the Oshrenko family were brutally stabbed to death in their Rishon Lezion home.  Kirilik, a compulsive bettor who traveled around the world to feed his gambling addiction, was in desperate need of cash after running up large debts. He reportedly tried to blackmail Edward Oshrenko by threatening to report alleged income tax irregularities to the Tax Authority. Oshrenko responded by photographing Kirilik committing a lewd act with a waitress, and threatening to send the image to his wife if Kirilik reported him.

Kirilik was aware of a large amount of cash in the possession of the Oshrenko family, and set out to rob their home and murder members of the family, police said. He stole approximately NIS 25,000 from the apartment, police added. “Three generations of a single family were wiped out. This is a tragedy for all Israeli citizens,” Mor said. “This was a family that successfully ran its businesses, and was well integrated into the community.”

Witness: Deadly Sushi Bar Shooting Over Gambling Debt

A man shot dead inside a Denver sushi bar was attempting to collect a gambling debt from the restaurant owner, 7NEWS has learned. That owner, Yan De Yang, 40 has been charged with first-degree murder in the Oct. 22 shooting death of Lloyd Running Bear, 29. Running Bear was shot multiple times in the chest as horrified lunch patrons at Chopsticks and Sushi Restaurant watched. Yang, who remains in jail, was also charged with first-degree assault.

Yang, who uses the first name David, told police he shot in self-defense when Running Bear began choking him, according to police reports. Yang said he had been getting death threats after he threw Running Bear out of his restaurant a week earlier for being drunk.

Former DSS finance director pleads guilty in $5 million theft

The former finance director of South Carolina’s social services agency pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing more than $5 million from the agency, money he has said he spent on alcohol, gambling and strippers. So far, Moore, Moses and 50 others have been prosecuted for their roles in the scheme, and prosecutors say more arrests are expected. In all, Barbier says, authorities think the two men recruited more than 300 people to help embezzle the money, telling them to say the money was either from grants or child support payments if anyone asked.  Last month, Moses was sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to his role.

Ex-casino manager gets 50 years in prison

A former Albuquerque-area casino manager has been sentenced to 50 years in prison after admitting he stole more than $1.2 million by forging payout slips. Authorities initially charged 39-year-old Daniel Roybal with nearly 700 different counts. He pleaded guilty in August to 17 felony charges of embezzlement and forgery at Sandia Casino.

Churches Raise $500,000 for Gambling Addict; Said he Had Cancer

New Zealand – 39-year-old Gerard Marychurch faces Auckland District Court this week on charges accusing him of deceiving money out of area churches by pretending to be a cancer sufferer in need of treatment money, totaling $500,000 since 2004. Marychurch said in a written apology that most of the cash went toward his addiction to gambling. A female parishioner said that he also lied about having to travel to the South Island for specialist treatment, where parishioners were out of sight.

Brooklyn P.D. chase stolen car, shots fired at Lumiere

A woman has been arrested after she fled police in a stolen minivan and then tried to run over an officer at the Lumiere casino parking garage, police said.  The two officers fired shots at the van to try to stop it. No one was injured and police caught up with the woman about two blocksaway from the casino after she abandoned the van.  Brooklyn police said that at 6:55 a.m. today that officers tried to stop the 1994 Chevrolet Astro van. The officer then learned that the van had been stolen from Granite City, Brooklyn police said.

Court Notebook: Judge throws book at gambling embezzler

Telling her gambling is no excuse, a circuit judge ignored pleas for leniency and sentenced a former bookkeeper to 12 years in a state prison for embezzling about $210,000.  Judge Hardt also sentenced Mary Jo Clark, 60, formerly of Golden Gate Estates, to 10 years of probation, a lengthy term, so she could repay John Rice Plumbing the thousands she stole from the Naples firm from December 2001 to October 2005.

Calif. man gets 26 years for crash that killed 11

A Northern California bus driver involved in a crash that killed 11 people last year has been sentenced to more than 26 years in prison. The Stockton resident was convicted last month of 11 counts of gross vehicular manslaughter and 21 counts of great bodily injury.  Watts was behind the wheel of a bus carrying a group of mostly elderly Hmong and Mien immigrants from the Sacramento area to a casino in October 2008 when the bus veered off a rural Colusa County road and rolled over.

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

North St Louis County Casino Rezoning plan passed, despite strong-arm tactics by Vegas casino exec

Casino Watch focus last reported that the idea of a casino in north St Louis county looked bleak given Pinnacle’s decision to fix the Admiral and leave the casino at its current location.  However, the issue still came before the Council and they voted 4-2 to approve the measure.  This means that should a license become available, a casino could be potentially built in the Spanish Lake area in north St Louis County.

One council member came forward to give his account of what happened leading up to the vote.  As reported by the St Louis Post Dispatch, he claimed that he was given the strong-arm treatment in an attempt to vote against the proposal:

Stenger said he was paid a visit shortly before the meeting began by Daniel R. Lee, chairman and chief executive officer of Pinnacle Entertainment Inc., and several members of Lee’s entourage.  Stenger said it was the first time he had met Lee, who had flown in that afternoon from Las Vegas.

“He comes into my office 15 minutes before the meeting begins and he muscles me,” Stenger said. “He said, ‘This (the casino) is the largest investment your district has ever seen or will ever see. And we are asking you to vote no (on the North County rezoning issue).'” “I asked Lee why he cared, but he would only say, ‘Voting no is the right decision to make. You need to vote no.'” Stenger said.

The pressure didn’t stop there.  Once the vote was cast, a visibly upset and clearly out of control, Daniel Lee made another move.  The  Post Dispatch explains:

After Stenger cast his vote, he said, Lee got out of his seat near the back of the chambers, hurried down the side aisle and stepped up onto the council dais.  “He got about two feet from my face before someone waved him aside, telling him he could not interrupt the meeting like that,” Stenger said.

Stenger said Lee then approached Stenger’s assistant, Linda Henry, who was seated at the side of the dais. “Lee says to her, loud enough for everyone to hear, ‘He (Stenger) just made the worst move in his political career! I won’t forget this! I never forget things like this!'” Stenger said.  Henry confirmed the incident. “He said it very menacingly,” she added. “I felt threatened.”

In a typical public relations move, Daniel Lee attempted to apologize for his behavior in an email.  He claimed he is just very passionate about the issue.  Either way, his behavior was clearly unacceptable and the vote was clearly unfortunate.  However, if the Admiral can pass an inspection, its unlikely a casino will be moving north.  Please keep reading Casino Watch Focus for more updates on this situation.

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

A brief look at crime Oct 26 – Nov 1

Man guilty in great-grandpa murder

Darius Huntington was found guilty of murdering a 69-year-old great-grandfather at his home in July.  Willie Rice was killed after hosting a poker party. Police allege  Huntington and two others arrested, Derrick Hewlett and Cordney Rowe , targeted Rice because he ran an illegal gambling operation out of a back room of his Spring Street home.  One suspect entered Rice’s home earlier that evening to case it out and then returned with the other two suspects. Huntington was convicted of first-degree murder, felony firearms and being a felon in possession of a weapon. He’ll be sentenced November 17.

Former Accounting Supervisor Pleads Guilty to Embezzling $3.6 Million from Employer

A former accounting supervisor for a Houston area chemicals company has pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $3.6 million from her employer, United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. Simon used the embezzled money to buy a luxury home, luxury vehicles, jewelry and financed multiple gambling trips to Louisiana and Las Vegas.

Poker Player Who Killed Parents Won’t Get Death Penalty

The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office will not seek the death penalty for Ernest Scherer III, now 31, who is accused of killing both his parents. former San Ramon Valley schools trustee Ernest Scherer Jr., 60 and Charlene Abendroth, 57, a longtime Cal State East Bay accounting lecturer, were both found brutally stabbed and beaten to death in their Pleasanton home last year.  Both the father and son were well known on the professional poker circuit.

Police contacted last year in an effort to help with the investigation.  They had determined the younger Scherer to be a prime suspect in his parents murder and believed at the time he owed substantial amounts of money in gambling debts.  It was later determined that Scherer stood to inherit more than a $1 million.

FBI, police rescue 52 kids in prostitution probes

The raids are the latest in a long-running Operation Cross Country aimed at child prostitution rings around the country. Almost 1,600 agents and officers took part in the raids, which led to federal and state charges against a total of 691 suspects. The investigations typically target places where minors are likely to be sold for sex, including truck stops, casinos, public streets, and Internet Web sites.

FBI officials say they have rescued 52 children in a series of raids around the country aimed at under-age prostitution. Authorities say the youngest victim was just 10 years old. The bureau and local police officials also arrested 60 pimps during the three-day enforcement effort in 36 cities.

Swiss police: Bank employee gambled away $2.8M

Swiss police say a bank employee has admitted stealing millions from the bank’s safe to finance her $60,000 to $89,000 a week gambling habit.  The 41-year-old woman confessed to embezzling $2.8 million over the course of five years.

Financier blames bankruptcy on gambling addiction

BANKRUPT city financier Nick Levene, who quit as vice-chairman of Leyton Orient Football Club last week, has blamed his losses on a gambling addiction.  The 45-year-old is alleged to have taken money from tycoons to buy shares on their behalf but failed to invest any of it or return the cash. He has now had his assets frozen following a High Court order and has been ordered to return £17.9m to Brian Souter and Ann Golag, the founders of travel firm Stagecoach.

Gambling addict facing jail after stealing £5m

A GAMBLING addict is facing jail after he admitted stealing almost £5 million from Birmingham University.  Paul Sadler, the former managing director of Birmingham Research and Development Ltd, a trading subsidiary of the university, pleaded guilty to stealing the money from his firm between December 1994 and January 2008.

Former officer gets 10 years

Mickey L. Dooley, 50, was re-sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay nearly $49,000 in restitution and fines by U.S. District Judge G. Patrick Murphy.  Dooley was indicted in January 2008 on charges that accused him of lying to the FBI, stealing money from the evidence room at the Alton Police Department and wire fraud, as well as failing to file his 2006 income tax return. He was convicted by a federal jury in September 2008 and sentenced in December 2008. Prosecutors alleged the 24-year police veteran used the stolen money to support a gambling habit. Dooley was the evidence custodian for the Alton Police Department.

Atlantic City Casinos Hit With More Underage Gambling Fines

Atlantic City casinos may be struggling, but that does not mean that they are going to be allowed to offer gambling to underage patrons. On Wednesday, the New Jersey Casino Control Commission again made that point loud and clear. Fines were handed down to Bally’s Atlantic City and Caesars Atlantic City casinos. The casinos are owned by the same company and were represented at the Wednesday hearing by Attorney William J. Downey.

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

Pinnacle looking to fix The Admiral and Keep the President casino put

Casino Watch Focus has been reporting on the possibility of a new casino in the Spanish Lakes region of North St Louis.  The only way a new casino would even be possible would be if the President Casino were not allowed to remain open due to the condition of the Admiral, a move the Missouri Gaming Commission seemed to believe would be the case. Now its being reported by the St Louis Post Dispatch that Pinnacle is planning to fix the Admiral to a safe level and not attempt to move its location:

Pinnacle Entertainment, which owns the money-losing casino on Laclede’s Landing, said Thursday that it plans to refurbish the aging Admiral riverboat, on which the casino sits, and keep it docked downtown. The move would appear to prevent a high-stakes scrum for the President’s valuable gaming license.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission Thursday, Pinnacle said it now plans to repair the boat prior to a hull inspection due next July, and that the repairs should be enough to keep the Admiral in service.

This move is a clear contradiction to statements made by Pinnacle, but not one that is openly being blocked by the Missouri Gaming Commission.  The Post Dispatch explains:

Since 2006, when they bought the President for $45 million as part of their plans to build Lumière Place, company officials have said time and again that fixing the hull was not feasible. For a time last year, it floated a plan to move the boat north, to the Chain of Rocks Bridge. But state gaming regulators rebuffed that plan. As recently as July, Pinnacle said it wanted to replace the Admiral with a newer riverboat it owns, not repair it.

Pinnacle appealed, charging that the Gaming Commission had all but stripped its license — which expires in 2011 — without due process. And earlier this month, attorneys for the state opened a door to repairs, saying the condition of the hull is not for them to decide. “That is between Pinnacle and (the inspectors),” the lawyers wrote in a court filing in the case, which is still being considered in state appeals court. “The Commission is not attempting to prohibit Pinnacle from repairing its hull.”

The Gaming Commission may still need to approve the move, but their intentions are currently unknown as they declined to comment given the current lawsuit.  Keep reading Casino Watch Focus for updates on this situation.

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