Monthly Archives: March 2010

A Brief Look at Crime 3/15 – 3/28

Leaders Speak Out After Dice Game Kills Teen

A memorial with flowers, photos and crime scene tape marks the spot in Miami’s Carol City Park where someone murdered 17-year-old LaDarius Frazer. Police said the teen was killed after an argument over a game of dice.  Derrick Macon said the teen died in his arms. Family and friends spent all day and night Sunday visiting the site where Frazer was killed. All were distraught that a roll of the dice could end in murder. Frazer’s death is the lastest in a string of shootings that erupted over dice games. Just last year nine people were gunned down in Liberty City near a game of craps.

Ex-office manager sentenced to prison

Pennington previously pleaded guilty to taking $275,000 from Dr. Stephen Zucker’s practice over the course of several years, even taking out a debit card in his name. The 33-month sentence coincided with what the government was asking that Pennington receive in the theft. Addressing the judge at the hearing, Zucker said he was astonished to find himself in court facing the betrayal of a lifelong employee. Pennington’s attorney William Stanley told the court that Pennington’s gambling problems and feelings or work pressure were not an excuse, but rather an explanation of her actions.

Mum planned to murder family: court

A mother put drugs into her husband’s and son’s food for four days as she prepared to kill them and then herself, a court has been told. The 45-year-old woman – who cannot be identified – made the decision to end their lives after her husband discovered she had gambled away $500,000 of the family’s money, the Supreme Court in Brisbane heard on Friday. The court was told the woman decided her family hated her because of her addiction, and that they would be better off if they were dead.

Suspect In Manhunt Found Dead In Big River

A wanted felon is dead after an early morning police pursuit that started in East St. Louis, Illinois, and ended with a manhunt near Eureka, Missouri.  The Missouri Highway Patrol identified the suspect as Gene Miller, 34, from Hillsboro, Missouri.  Investigators say Miller won an $18,000 jackpot from the Casino Queen, but when he went to show his identification the Illinois Gaming Board flagged him for outstanding warrants.  That’s when we’re told Miller took off.

East St. Louis Police started chasing Miller near the Casino Queen around 4:00 a.m. Monday, then the Missouri Highway Patrol picked it up at I-55 and Bayless.  They chased Miller all the way out to Eureka. We’re told at one point, Miller actually shot at troopers.  Fortunately, no one was hit. Miller eventually ditched his truck along Route W near Eureka and ran off.  That set off a massive manhunt with SWAT teams called in from the Highway Patrol and the Jefferson County Sheriffs Department.

Calif. man sentenced for bilking $7M from casinos

A San Diego man who led a card-cheating scheme that bilked dozens of casinos across the country out of a total of $7 million has been sentenced to nearly six years in federal prison. Phuong Quoc Truong was sentenced Monday in San Diego after pleading guilty in April 2008 to conspiracy to conduct a racketeering enterprise. He and 13 others were indicted in May 2007.

Gang-Related Shooting Injures 2 in Cali Casino

Authorities have arrested the alleged gunman in the gang-related shooting of two teenagers at an Amador County casino. The shooting took place inside one of the restaurants at Jackson Rancheria Casino around 5:30 a.m. Sunday. The 18-year-old and 15-year-old victims suffered gunshot wounds to the face and neck. They were taken to area hospitals, where authorities say they’re in stable condition.

Granny Barbara Wells stole half a million from her boss to blow on pokies

A YOUNG grandmother stole more than half a million dollars from her boss and blew it all playing pokies. Barbara Wells, 39, was sentenced yesterday to 18 months in jail for embezzling $545,222.  Maitland Local Court in Sydney was told that she stole the money to feed her gambling addiction.  To feed her habit, she siphoned company money into three of her own accounts.  Although she took only a few thousand dollars to begin with she soon started stealing amounts of $15,000 at a time.

St. Louis bookie pleads guilty, will forfeit $295,000

A St. Louis bookie pleaded guilty to a federal gambling charge Wednesday and agreed to forfeit  $295,431, as well as guns and computer gear, prosecutors said. As part of 54-year-old Douglas Lee Brown’s guilty plea to operating an illegal gambling business, Brown admitted making bets on sporting events from November 2006 to November 2007.

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

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A Brief Look at Crime 3/1 – 3/14

Debt-ridden gambler kills self, 11 others in suicide blast

A gambler unable to pay his debts set off a bomb in a minibus in a mountainous area of southwest China, killing himself and injuring 11 others, the Xinhua news agency said today. Bus bombs occur occasionally in China, where authorities fear unemployment, a widening income gap, or land and debt problems could lead to violence and instability. Yang Yongshou, 42, a former drug dealer and explosives expert, detonated the bomb under his seat on the mini-bus on Saturday in Luxi county, in Yunnan Province near the Vietnamese border, an area known for its steep rice terraces.

Morgans Hotel Executive Found Dead

Randy Kwasniewski, a hotel industry veteran and president of Morgans Hotel Group Las Vegas, was found dead at his home in Las Vegas on Tuesday morning, the company said. Las Vegas police said they responded to a call at his home around 10 a.m. and found an individual dead from a gunshot wound. A spokesman said the department was still investigating the circumstances of the death and could not provide details. Mr. Kwasniewski had overseen the stylish Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas since joining Morgans in 2006 after serving as an executive at Starwood Capital Group.

Victims paid restitution by former guardian

All restitution owed to court wards in a 2004 embezzlement case has been repaid, but the former guardian and conservator at the center of the case still owes more than $25,000 to the county.  Susan Marie Berg, 52, Sanford, was accused of feeding a gambling habit by taking $237,698 from wards of the court from April 2002 to March 2004. She ultimately pleaded guilty to three counts of embezzlement from a vulnerable adult and was sentenced in the spring of 2005 to serve one year in jail followed by five years probation and to pay restitution in full. She paid $100,000 at the sentencing hearing.

Mikey Arroyo witness shot dead in ambush

Confessed illegal gambling operator Wilfredo Mayor was shot dead by four gunmen in a dawn ambush in Pasay City yesterday. Mayor, who had implicated presidential son Pampanga Rep. Mikey Arroyo in jueteng operations, was declared dead on arrival at the San Juan De de Dios Medical Center. Senior Supt. Raul Petrasanta, Pasay police chief, said a brother-in-law, registered nurse Allan Benedict Castro, 39, sustained several bullet wounds. Nephew Rommel Mayor, 39, was unhurt.

“It was clear that Mayor was the target. His companions survived,” he said. Amid a hail of bullets from M-16 rifles and caliber .45 pistols, the Volvo, driven by Castro, went to a complete stop in front of Our Lady of Airways church at the corner of Chapel Road.  Petrasanta said the three reportedly came from a casino in Malate, Manila.

Haslingden gambler’s 40 burglaries to pay for addiction

A GAMBLER launched a one-man crime spree on schools, firms and community centres to find cash for his addiction.  Peter Everall, 36, carried on after being caught twice by police and in total carried out more than 40 raids.  He repeatedly struck at buildings across Rossendale and Burnley – including a special needs school – looking for electrical items and goods he could sell.

3-year term for Fresno school embezzlement

A former business manager who has admitted to stealing $422,000 from a tiny southwest Fresno school district was sentenced Tuesday in Fresno County Superior Court to three years in prison. Leonard Robinson, 52, wrote in a letter to Judge Jonathan Conklin that he was sorry for his actions. Attorney Glenn LoStracco, who represented Robinson, had sought probation, arguing that Robinson stole from Orange Center Elementary School District to feed a gambling habit, not to live a lavish lifestyle. But Conklin stuck to a three-year prison sentence that he had indicated in September when Robinson pleaded guilty to grand theft and second-degree burglary.

Robbers kill casino patron

A night out on the town turned into a nightmare for patrons of the Graceland Hotel Casino in Secunda, Mpumalanga on Wednesday night, when one person was killed and two police officers were wounded by a group of frustrated would-be robbers after their plan to rob the casino went awry. A witness told News24 he was standing at the casino’s bar when the group of men suddenly ran into the gambling area and screamed that everybody should lie down. “We all fell to the ground, we were terrified. I don’t know how many of them there were, but there was a lot,” Dirk Engelbrecht said, adding that the robbers had balaclavas on carried “pistols” and at least one “big gun.”

Md. Man Gets 25 Years in ’07 NJ Casino Bomb Threat

A Maryland man who hijacked a shuttle bus in 2007 and threatened to blow up a New Jersey casino unless he was paid $3 million has been sentenced to 25 years in federal prison. David B. Kilkeary of Crofton, Md., was sentenced Friday in federal court in Trenton. The 39-year-old Kilkeary pleaded guilty in August, admitting he caused an overnight standoff with police outside the Showboat Casino-Hotel in Atlantic City in November 2007.

Man convicted of murder over gambling loss

A former Santa Ana apartment manager was convicted of first-degree murder Tuesday for shooting a man to death after he allegedly lost hundreds of dollars in a Cambodian dice game. Franco Edgar Neftali, 44, showed no reaction when his seven-woman, five-man jury also found that he used a gun to commit murder, a penalty enhancement that qualifies him for 50 years to life in prison at his sentencing on May 7 by Superior Court Judge M. Marc Kelly.

Ky. man, La. woman get prison for $13M theft

A Kentucky man and a Louisiana woman have been sentenced to prison terms for their roles in a scheme to embezzle nearly $13 million from a Gretna oil company. White worked for the company, which operated a dock fueling business in the Port of New Orleans. Barbier sentenced her to 40 months in prison. Kinney was her sister’s boyfriend. He was sentenced to 78 months in prison. Prosecutors said the stolen funds were used to pay personal expenses, gambling and to fund a racing company, Premier Motorsports, which Kinney run. Premier Motorsports owned race cars and competed in the NASCAR Busch Series.

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


Update: Missouri Families at Risk as Pinnacle Entertainment makes a surprise move and agrees to close the President casino despite their first favorable court ruling

Casino Watch Focus reported that Pinnacle Entertainment filed a motion in court to prevent the unprecedented decision by the Missouri Gaming Commission (MGC) to pull the President Casino’s license because of declining revenues.  The St Louis Post Dispatch reported that an appeals court in Kansas City ruled in favor of Pinnacle:

In the fight over the fate of the President Casino, Pinnacle Entertainment finally won a round. A state appeals court in Kansas City on Tuesday sided with the casino company in a lawsuit filed last fall against Missouri casino regulators. In its order, the panel called the Gaming Commission’s approach “confusing,” and said “such confusion raises concern that this was a contested case without sufficient process.” It sent the matter back to the commission, “for further proceedings.”

The ruling has no direct bearing on the Gaming Commission’s more recent effort to strip the President’s license over its weak financial performance. In that matter, Pinnacle has requested a hearing, which is likely to happen later this spring. But it could open a window for Pinnacle to propose improvements to the President, or even, potentially, to move it to a new site.

The issue was sent back to the MGC and a meeting was held on Wednesday, March 10th with the only item on the agenda being the President Casino’s license.  The result of the meeting came as a surprise as Pinnacle Entertainment agreed to close down the President Casino.  The St Louis Post Dispatch reported:

After eight months of staring down powerful Missouri regulators over the fate of the President Casino, the Las Vegas-based gaming company agreed Wednesday to close the ailing downtown riverboat by July 1. The move comes as a surprise, one that could have broad implications for St. Louis’ $1 billion-a-year casino industry.

In the last few weeks, McNary said, Pinnacle general counsel Jack Godfrey reached out to the commission and proposed a deal. Pinnacle would give up the license. The commission would drop its disciplinary proceedings. Everyone would move on. It is unclear what changed Pinnacle’s mind.

Some reasoned that the decision to stop fighting the Missouri gaming regulators might be, in part, to not wanting to alienate state regulators, not just because of the two other casinos they own here, but also because of casinos they operate in other states. The Post also pointed to statement made by Pinnacle:

Godfrey said the decision came simply from shifting priorities. Pinnacle has opened two big, new casinos in St. Louis in a little more than two years. Pouring time and money into the President was no longer smart business. “We looked at the situation and decided to allocate our resources to productive pursuits,” he said. “We’ve sort of agreed to disagree and to resolve this matter,” Godfrey said. “

Many people voted in favor of Proposition A because of the mistaken belief that a cap of 13 casinos in Missouri would keep one out of Cape Girardeau, Sugar Creek or Chain of Rocks.  Countless times during the campaign against Prop A, every effort was made to explain this very scenario, yet so many people voted ‘Yes’ thinking they were keeping a casino out of their back yard.  Missouri families find themselves in a situation where a new mega casino can be built anywhere along the Missouri or Mississippi Rivers, putting them in terrible risk of serious gambling related problems.  Now, more than ever, you need to contact your local Missouri Senators and House Representatives and encourage them support new legislation that prevents any new casinos from being built.

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


Update: Legislative Committee stripped bill aimed at preventing regulatory abuse by the Missouri Gaming Commission

Casino Watch Focus reported that Missouri House Rep. Tishaura Jones filed HB 1826 in an effort to prevent the Missouri Gaming Commission from pulling a license because of declining performance.  HB 1826 was sent to The House Urban Issues Committee.  The St Louis Post Dispatch is reporting that the bill was amended in the committee in way contrary to the bill’s intent:

The House Urban Issues Committee voted Monday evening to allow state regulators to revoke gambling licenses because of casinos’ inadequate financial performance, so long as 90 days’ notice is given.

That was the opposite of what Rep. Tishaura Jones, D-St. Louis, proposed when she filed the legislation that the committee was considering. So after the amendment was added, the chairman, Rep. Ted Hoskins, D-Berkeley, shelved the bill and ended the meeting.

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


Missouri Legislature proposing a bill to stop the unprecedented decision to pull the President Casino

Casino Watch Focus reported that the MO Gaming Commission voted 4-0 to shut down the President Casino because of declining revenues.  Apparently, it’s not making enough money, so they hope to give the license to a company that will build yet another mega casino complex and spend even more money on elaborate advertising schemes that will take even more money away from Missouri families.   Tim Logan of The St Louis Post Dispatch called this act “the most aggressive action ever taken by a state against a U.S. casino.”

“It’s probably unprecedented,” said Tony Cabot, a veteran gaming lawyer in Las Vegas. “I think it sets an awfully dangerous precedent.”

Spokesmen for both the Gaming Commission and Pinnacle declined to comment for this story. But conversations with others in the tight-knit gambling industry revealed concern that, while there’s little sympathy for Pinnacle, state officials may be recklessly rewriting rules in a highly regulated business that relies on playing things by the book.

Indeed, Missouri casinos are governed by hundreds of pages of rules covering every facet of their operation, notes Mike Winter, executive director of the Missouri Gaming Association, a trade group. And the Gaming Commission wields vast power to enforce those rules. But the reason for closing the President, Winter said, comes out of left field.

Juana Summers of The St Louis Post Dispatch is pointing to an effort in the Missouri Legislature to stop such reckless and subjective regulation abuse:

A House committee heard a proposal today aimed at keeping the doors of the President Casino open, though the Missouri Gaming Commission has taken steps to pull the casino’s license.

Rep. Tishaura Jones’ bill, HB 1826, would outlaw the closure of a casino on purely economic grounds. The bill has the support of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, who testified Monday.

“The Gaming Commission is holding Pinnacle hostage here, and the ransom is President’s license,” Slay said.

Some House lawmakers said the idea of “inadequate declining performance” seemed subjective and was a hard standard to interpret.

Rep. Vicki Englund, D-St. Louis County, questioned how the commission evaluates casino’s performance and asked lobbyist Jim McNichols, who testified on the commission’s behalf to explain how casinos could be expected to meet standards when they weren’t explicitly provided with standards to comply with.

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


Selection Sunday: NCAA March Madness Gambling will cost the workforce billions

Today is known in the sports world as Seleciton Sunday, the day the NCAA college basketball national tournament players will be selected and seeded in the tournament.  As we enter into another year of March Madness its important to understand the impact that office pools have on employers and the communities. Obviously, not all office pools will result in gambling, however, a vast majority do involve illegal gambling. A USAtody article points to reports of online pools that take an entry fee and award cash and prizes. These pools may seem harmless but FBI spokesman Ross Rice explained that,‘“There could be a violation if there’s a payout and if the operators take a cut.” So how many people will engage in office pools this time of year and how will it impact work productivity? The St Louis post dispatch provides some good insight:

Nearly half of U.S. workers have participated in an office pool, and nearly a quarter have watched or followed sports events on their computer at work, according to a recent survey. 10 percent of employees have called in sick to watch or attend a game. 11 percent of workers aged 18 to 24 have participated in an office pool, compared to 77 percent of those 65 and older.

Very few employers offer guidance in their policies regarding office pools, even though it may mean taking a hit in terms of productivity, said John Heins, chief human resources officer for recruiting and staffing company Spherion Corp.

In terms of cost to employers, the Charlotte Observer points to a Chicago-based survey which says as much as $1.7 billion will be lost by employers in productivity, which breaks down to $109 million lost for every 10 minutes spent following the tournament. They believe there will be over 37 million workers participating in pools with 1.5 million watching games and results online from their desks.

The Charlotte Observer went on to quantify the financial impact of just the gambling.  On the low estimates they point to Terry Elman, acting executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling in New Jersey, who said “As much as $750 million is wagered on the tournament in office pools each year.”  On the high end, Lazer wager, an online sports, casino and entertainment gambling website, was reported claiming that, “with bracket pools ranging from $5 to $25 per person, office pools are now worth an incredible $2.5 billion.”

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


Casino Opponents denied on Gaming Commission Agenda

A guest article from Dan Hite, Chairman of Missouri Clergy Against Gambling Expansion

This morning, “Save the Confluence” coalition casino opponents will not be allowed time on the agenda of the Missouri Gaming Commission meeting at St. Louis County Council chambers at 9:00 AM. The coalition is made up of a broad range of organizations and individuals representing moral, religious, environmental, and economic concerns regarding the building of a new casino in the Columbia Bottoms area in North St. Louis County, just south of the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.

The St. Louis County Council has not listened to the people and has proceeded with the preliminaries for the new casino development, and now the MO Gaming Commission closes its ears to the concerns of the people. Government is not only unresponsive to public concerns, but is totally bent on a course counter to their wishes. This is very apparent from local to state to national levels.

Enough is enough. They may be silenced in public meetings, but voters can speak in coming primaries and elections! It is time for citizens to reclaim all levels of government and for deaf, uninformed public servants to be retired from public life. To use Lincoln’s words, government of the people, by the people, and for the people needs a new birth of freedom in America. I am praying that 2010 is the year.

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