Monthly Archives: May 2011

A Brief Look at Crime 05/16– 05/22

Drifter gets life for fatally stabbing woman

A drifter has been sentenced to life in prison for fatally stabbing a South Florida woman during a burglary. A Miami-Dade judge sentenced 35-year-old Reynerio Alonso Rivero on Tuesday after he pleaded guilty to murder. Alonso Rivero admitted to authorities that he broke into the home of Percy and Elizabeth Palomino on April 17. He was looking for money so he could play poker at Miami’s Magic City casino. He had worked at the couple’s banquet hall many times over the years. Alonso Rivero told police that he attacked Elizabeth Palomino when she returned home unexpectedly. He stabbed her in the neck several times and then twice in the back.

 Ex-NBA star sues Las Vegas resort over ‘beatdown’

LAS VEGAS (AP)  — Charles Oakley, one of the NBA’s all-time tough guys and now a Charlotte Bobcats assistant, has sued a Las Vegas resort over what he calls a May 2010 “gang-style beatdown” by security guards that injured him. The suit says Oakley was an invited guest at Aria’s VIP pool area when he left the area, but was prevented from re-entering it by security officers and staff. The suit claims Oakley was taken to the hospital after the officers wrestled him to the ground, and punched and handcuffed him.

 Conn. man who ran $100M Ponzi scheme gets prison

A man who tricked hundreds of investors into giving him more than $100 million on a promise of fat profits on diamonds and distressed properties was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison. Michael Goldberg, 40, of Wethersfield, was also ordered by a federal judge in Hartford to pay at least $500 a month in restitution after he’s released, based on what he can afford, and to undergo substance abuse and mental health evaluations and treatment. He remains free on bail and must report to prison July 18. A man who tricked hundreds of investors into giving him more than $100 million on a promise of fat profits on diamonds and distressed properties was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison. Michael Goldberg, 40, of Wethersfield, was also ordered by a federal judge in Hartford to pay at least $500 a month in restitution after he’s released, based on what he can afford, and to undergo substance abuse and mental health evaluations and treatment. He remains free on bail and must report to prison July 18.

Butte woman pleads guilty to embezzling from union

A 57-year-old Butte woman has pleaded guilty to taking about $200,000 from a labor union to feed a gambling habit. The Montana Standard reports Teresa Wilson pleaded guilty in federal court in Missoula Monday to labor union embezzlement, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. Prosecutors allege she took between $171,000 and $219,000 over six years from the Butte Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 41 and the Central Labor Council, which promotes organized labor throughout southwestern Montana.

Caregiver gets prison sentence for $391,000 theft

A 55-year-old former caregiver will spend 10 to 13 years in prison for stealing $391,000 from an elderly man who entrusted her with his care and some of his finances. Susan Willis, who lived in Davis in Carteret County, cared for John A. “Ecky” Meadows at his New Bern home for about three years. Meadows, in his 90s, had both of his legs amputated and was a retired Navy commander. Willis, according to her lawyer Tom Kellis, earned a nursing degree from UNC-Chapel Hill. Kellis told the court that his client had health problems and her husband had a gambling problem. She had no prior criminal record. “She loved and betrayed Mr. Meadows. Mr. Meadows loved her as family,” Kellis told the court.

New Fraud Claim Against Missing Bank of America Employee

A former Bank of America employee in Hawaii who allegedly stole more than $1 million from the bank’s mortgage loan customers has been accused of fraud in a state court lawsuit. The Bank of America said in a written statement in January that it had fired Kim and reported “possible embezzlement of customer-paid escrow funds” to the FBI. Kim allegedly never deposited the money in escrow but cashed the checks and used the proceeds to pay pressing gambling debts.

‘America’s Most Wanted’ suspect arrested at Las Vegas Strip casino

An “America’s Most Wanted” suspect accused of raping and “pimping” two New Jersey teenagers was arrested at a Strip casino Thursday. Las Vegas police said Jason L. Brown, 31, was wanted for allegedly violently assaulting two young women in Atlantic City and forcing them into prostitution. Police arrested Brown playing poker about 3 a.m. Thursday at Aria. According to the Fox television show, Brown was a compulsive gambler, and police had suspected he fled to Las Vegas. The assault allegedly happened in January. Brown was featured on the show in February.

Bartlett lawyer begins 10-year prison sentence for embezzling $170,000 from clients

A disbarred Bartlett lawyer who admitted stealing more than $170,000 from two trust funds for six orphaned children was denied probation Thursday and began serving a 10-year prison sentence.  James Hoots, who also admitted stealing some $800,000 from his own father’s account, asked for leniency from Criminal Court Judge W. Mark Ward, but said he had no job prospects to earn money for restitution if placed on probation. Under the law, the families can file a civil petition to seek recovery of the $170,956 Hoots admitted stealing to finance what he called a gambling addiction. “I was in denial that I had a problem, but obviously I did,” said Hoots, adding that he spent the money at Tunica casinos. “For whatever reason, I could not stop. I was somehow able to justify it to myself.

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


ESPN exposes terrible Florida Youth Football Gambling Ring

Casino Watch Focus has reported numerous times on the NFL’s anti-gambling position.  The organization doesn’t like gambling on its sport because they know from other sports the propensity for corruption, game fixing and the devastating trail that can be left behind in gambling’s wake.  So imagine how shocking it was when ESPN’s Outside the Lines recently broke a story about the real life consequences of a football gambling ring.  Unfortunately, as the Baltimore Sports Report explains, this story has nothing to do with the NFL:

A recent story was featured on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” involving the problem of gambling in the South Florida Youth Football League.  That’s right, I said the YOUTH football league.  Apparently, people have been gambling on games in this particular league for several years now, but it has never been addressed publicly until OTL decided to conduct an investigation into the situation.

During the investigation, OTL found that on several occasions men were openly betting and exchanging large wads of cash during football games.  But after further scrutiny, OTL found that the money being exchanged in the stands was minimal compared to the tens of thousands of dollars changing hands behind closed doors. They even found out that kids were being paid large amounts of money for making big plays.  But it didn’t stop there.  These men, most of which are drug dealers, found out which kids were the best and recruit them to play for a certain team before the season began by paying off their parents before the start of the season.  They would then bet on the team they essentially built and profit off it.  

There is so much wrong with the previous couple paragraphs that I almost don’t even know where to start.  First of all, the men gambling on these games are the absolute scum of the earth.  There’s no other way to put it.  They have no consideration for anyone but themselves and are ruining people’s lives in the process.  They are taking advantage of parents who don’t make a lot of money and bribing them with cash in order to profit from it.  They are tainting a game that kids love to play.  They are putting innocent people’s lives at risk due to their ignorant and insensitive way of life, and something needs to be done about it.

There are so many victims that it’s hard to even find a starting point.  From the parents & children to the newly financed drug dealers who manage to build their destructive empires on the profits of gambling.  There is no way to adequately summarize what has been exposed. To truly understand the extent of this devastation, PLEASE visit ESPN’s original story by Outsides the Lines HERE.

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


A Brief Look at Crime 05/09– 05/15

Online Poker Companies Face Money Laundering, Bank Fraud Charges

Three online poker companies have been accused of bank fraud and illegal gambling after a federal bust on Friday, Yahoo! News reports.  PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker are all based overseas, however the indictment states that federal investigators are after $3 billion in money laundering penalties and forfeiture from the 11 defendants hit with the charges. Manhattan prosecutors have accused the alleged offenders of using banks to launder billions in illegal poker revenue, and have slapped restraining orders on 75 bank accounts used by the poker companies in 14 countries.

Two sent to prison for online gambling business

A federal judge sentenced two local men to prison Thursday for their roles in an illegal Internet sports gambling business. James J. Moretina, 62, of Kansas City received a year and a day. James L. Dicapo, 58, of Parkville received three years and five months. The sentences were roughly within the ranges asked for by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Becker. Though Moretina declined to address U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey before hearing his sentence, Dicapo choked up and offered a statement. “I’d like to apologize to you for having to come here, and to Mr. Becker, the FBI agents and my family,” Dicapo said. “I’d like to get it over with.” And with that, he went to the U.S. Marshals Office to surrender for his sentence. Moretina will surrender on June 16.

Billings man sentenced for defrauding Wyoming insurance company

A former claims adjuster who admitted stealing more than $150,000 from his employer to feed a gambling addiction will spend 21 months in federal prison. Ryan Paul Shipman, 37, of Billings apologized in a brief statement before Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull sentenced him Thursday. Calling his actions a serious mistake, Shipman said they didn’t define him a person and he asked for leniency.  “You had what appeared to be a great job,” Cebull said. Then Shipman abused his employer’s trust and threw away his job for a gambling addiction, he said. Shipman didn’t think he had a problem even when he was spending $800 a night on gambling machines, he said.

Crime family member gets 10 years for murder plot

A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a member of a prominent New York crime family to 10 years in prison for ordering the murder of a Russian hitman. Judge Richard Howell of the Southern District of New York said he handed down the maximum sentence to Anthony “Tony D” Palumbo as a deterrent. Palumbo, a member of the Genovese organized-crime family, pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy to commit murder in aid of a racketeering enterprise. Palumbo was arrested along with 11 others in 2009 as part of an effort by federal and local authorities to crack down on the Genovese family. The charges included violent extortion, loansharking, narcotics trafficking and running illegal gambling operations.

Five-year probation for fighting pit bulls

Cletus Gaskins, the man found by police at the scene of a dog fight in north Sanderson last year with blood on his clothes and a mutilated dog in his truck, was sentenced to five years’ probation the afternoon of April 22 by Circuit Judge Phyllis Rosier. About a dozen animal rescue and pit bull advocates from the Gainesville area picketed for two hours outside the courthouse with signs urging jail time for the Gaskins Circle resident and his co-defendant Omar Aldridge of Starke. Both pleaded no contest in March to a pair of third-degree felonies: dog fighting and animal cruelty. Mr. Aldridge, who also faced a child abuse charge for fleeing the dog fighting scene on Circle G Lane without his then 4-year-old son, withdrew his plea minutes before being sentenced.

Assistant State Attorney Geoffrey Fleck wanted a stiffer penalty as well, given the spread of dog fighting in recent years and the criminal activities associated with dog fighting like gambling, drug use and violence. “You’re talking about a system that inflicts unnecessary pain on sentient creatures,” said Mr. Fleck, who has experience helping to prosecute dog fighting cases nationwide.

Massive football match-fixing scam covering 300 games under FIFA investigation

London, May 6(ANI): FIFA is reportedly investigating a massive football match-fixing scam after uncovering evidence of fixers manipulating over 300 games. Investigators believe that match officials have been bought for as little as 10,000 dollars per match to help deliver specific scores or events in games, enabling fixers to make hundreds of millions of dollars on Asian gambling markets. “The threat from match-fixing to the integrity of the global game is significant. England is the home of football and London is a global financial centre so it does not surprise me that the financial aspects of this activity lead to London,” said FIFA’s head of security Chris Eaton, a former Interpol official. “Interviews with those involved have told us that that fixers can spend upwards of 300,000 dollars to stage a friendly international and they do that with the expectation of a significant profit margin. Our information is that we are talking about tens of millions of dollars in profit from each successful fix,” he added.

24 mob suspects arrested in Rhode Island

Two dozen alleged members of the Patriarca crime family in Rhode Island have been arrested on racketeering, gambling and other charges, authorities say. The alleged New England mob members taken into custody Friday included paroled killer Frank “Bobo” Marrapese Jr., 68, of Cranston, The Providence Journal reported. State police Capt. James Demers said the arrests are the result of an investigation started last fall after police received information that Vincent “Big Vinny” Tallo, 49, of Johnston allegedly was running an illegal gambling ring, the newspaper said.  Tallo also was among those arrested.

Woman who embezzled $600,000 from a Grand Rapids bank gets 37-month prison sentence

A woman who admitted embezzling about $600,000 from a Grand Rapids bank has been sentenced to 37 months in federal prison. Joann Wierenga’s lawyer says she needs help for a gambling addiction more than a long prison stay. Her sentence Monday was at the low end of the guidelines. Wierenga pleaded guilty in February to embezzling from Huntington Bank for seven years. Her lawyer says she has repaid at least $132,000 and admitted the thefts when confronted by the bank in 2009.

Hammer attack son fractured mum and stepdad’s skulls in ferocious attack

A MAN who launched a savage attack on his mother and stepfather with a claw hammer for no apparent reason has been jailed for 14 years. Former student Mark Dunning, aged 23, flipped after returning home from a party and launched his vicious assault, leaving his victims, who are both prison officers, with fractured skulls. Neither a top psychiatrist or probation officers were able to discover the reason behind the ferocious assault. The only possible clue, the court heard, was that Dunning had financial and gambling problems – although his barrister Guy Wyatt said it was no excuse for his behaviour.

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


Federal Gov’t looks to hault state welfare abuses tied to gambling venues

Casino Watch Focus reported that California welfare recipients withdrew $1.8 million in government benefits at casino ATM’s across the state.  Other states have reported similar issues.  Most recently, an investigation revealed that welfare recipients in both Illinois and Missouri withdrew government provided aid from their welfare cards in Las Vegas.  Most of the ATM’s in Vegas Casino’s block EBT withdrawls, but there are still too many gambling venues across the country that have no safeguards.  Cases like this have now drawn the ire of Congress as they look to pass legislation to solve the problem.  The LA Times reports:

Welfare recipients nationwide would be barred from using their government-issued debit cards at casinos, strip clubs and liquor stores under a bill to be introduced Wednesday by leaders of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee.

A co-sponsor of the measure says he was inspired by the fact that nearly $5 million in cash benefits issued in California and meant to help struggling families feed and clothe their children, was spent or withdrawn from ATMs at casinos and poker rooms between January 2007 and May 2010.

Tens of thousands of dollars in Temporary Aid for Needy Families assistance was accessed or spent with the debit cards at Los Angeles-area strip clubs in the same period.

The bill has financial consequences for those states who don’t come into compliance and has bipartisan support.   The LA Times continues:

This bill will hopefully put an end to egregious abuses that have happened in many states, not just California,” said co-author Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah). Under the measure, states would have two years to demonstrate compliance with the bans or face a 5% cut in the federal contribution to their welfare programs, Hatch said.  The bill has bipartisan backing: Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is also listed as an author.

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


Update: Compulsive gambling programs slashed to pay for Gambling Study

Casino Watch Focus reported that the Florida Legislature secured $400,000 to commission a new gambling study.  This is a common step in the pro-gambling playbook.  The studies tend to only highlight the potential income from a gambling destination, while ignoring all the negative consequences.  However, the Orlando Sentinel is now reporting exactly where that money is coming from:

The annual budget for the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling is being cut by about $400,000 — which also happens to be the amount the Legislature is appropriating to study the profitability of destination casinos and horse racing in the state.

“The Florida Legislature has made its priorities crystal clear, which is a sad day for the residents of this state,” said council Executive Director Pat Fowler.

This news is exceptionally troubling considering the more gambling expansion in an area, the more compulsive gambling problems increase.  The last thing Florida’s citizens need to see is an increase in gambling venues, an increase in problem and compulsive gambling and a DECREASE in those programs designed to help families cope with the devastation gambling brings.  The Orlando Sentinel continues:

Said council President Paul Ashe: “Research has definitively concluded, in Florida and elsewhere, that along with gambling expansion is increased prevalence for compulsive gambling. The correlation is very clear and is not disputable.

“It doesn’t take a mental giant to recognize that any expansion of gambling to resort areas will generate increased revenues to the state. The question is at what cost? I am quite confident the gambling industry would be delighted to fund an independent study at their expense, if they have a chance to expand gambling in the state.”

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


A Brief Look at Crime 05/02– 05/8

Gambling debt leads to death for motorbike taxi driver

Police are searching for a motorbike taxi driver suspected of beating to death a co-worker who supposedly owed him money from gambling. The suspect, identified only as “Bang,” and five other unidentified men allegedly killed 29-year-old Chetakorn Promsopa April 20 in a public bathroom near a construction site on Soi Doodee in central Pattaya. The two men worked together at a taxi stand near there.  Chetakorn’s sister said her brother and Bang had a disagreement over an unpaid gambling debt. The dead man apparently tried to hide out in the toilet, but Bang and the five others found him and inflicted a severe beating. Chetakorn later died of his injuries at Pattaya Memorial Hospital. 

Fraudster calls police on himself

A fraudster couldn’t bring himself to go through with a plan to rob the bowling alley he’d already ripped off for $30,000, so he turned himself in to police. Michael Gignac, 41, was given a six-month conditional sentence and two years of probation on Thursday after pleading guilty to fraud over $5,000. Gignac’s gambling addiction led him to steal $31,075 from Laurentian Lanes Ltd., a chain of alleys that includes Vanier’s McArthur Lanes.

Murdered driver’s widow speaks out on gambling scandal

The widow of the chauffeur of one of the suspects in the illegal gambling scandal has spoken out to claim her husband was killed because he knew too much.  Alexei Prilepsky was found dead in April, prompting claims that his murder might be connected to his work with Marat Mamyev, a close associate of underground casino suspect Ivan Nazarov. And in that high-profile case, which has already sparked a turf war between investigators and prosecutors in Moscow Region and prompted the president to intervene, it appears that the wrong connections could be deadly.

Former bank office manager spared prison for larceny

Joseph D. Schneck, a former HSBC back office manager whose gambling addiction lead to him stealing almost $54,000 from the bank, today was spared a prison term by State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang. But the judge barred him from entering any Western New York casinos. Schneck, 41, of Unionvale Road, Cheektowaga, was placed on probation for the next five years on his Jan. 25 guilty plea to two counts of third-degree grand larceny. Wolfgang also placed him on a government-imposed “exclusion list” that will be posted at local casinos. chneck, now working for a relative’s construction company, admitted to stealing $53,710.70.

Charges in Davis killing amended to second degree murder

It’s an unusual case because of its complexity and the lack of physical evidence– but the two women accused of murdering Brian Davis in June 2009 are expected to stand trial this year. Davis was found shot to death Wednesday, July 1, 2009 next to his truck off Big Lake Road. The 39 year old man worked for an insurance company. In the months to come investigators would conclude that Davis was murdered by his wife, Robyn Davis and her close friend Carol Saltzman. According to court records Robyn Davis had a gambling addiction and was the beneficiary of a $645,000 life insurance policy– yet attorneys representing her and her alleged accomplice say the women did not commit the murder. At this point the trial is to begin November 7th.

Prescription drugs funded gambling habit, says crown

A Huntsville woman on social assistance who lost more than $350,000 at the casino over the past 13 years was funding her gambling habit with pills, a Bracebridge court heard last week. Court heard that on March 1, Massey was arrested while in the process of selling 150 OxyContin tablets. Police estimated the street value of the drugs to be more than $9,000. According to federal Crown attorney Peter Heath, that seizure was just the tip of the iceberg. In total, Massey lost more than $350,000, court was told. The entire time Massey was living on social assistance that added up to roughly $1,500 a month, court heard.

Branchburg investment advisor admits $7 million fraud

A Whitehouse Station woman who owned a Branchburg-based investment adviser, Systematic Financial Associates, admitted defrauding more than 50 investors of more than $7 million by soliciting investments in a fictitious investment program. Venetis admitted that she stole money to fund her own lavish lifestyle, using victims’ investments to pay for gambling debts in Las Vegas and elsewhere, as well as trips — including to Alaska, Italy, France, India and the Caribbean. She also misappropriated investments to pay her monthly mortgage, property taxes and other personal expenses.

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


Florida Budget to include $400,000 for a gambling study to “justify” future gambling expansion

Casino Watch Focus has been reporting on the ongoing battle to introduce 5 destination gambling resorts to Florida through the legislature.  Clearly, each attempt has failed this year, so the pro-gambling force is already focused on next years efforts.  A classic step in the evolution of gambling expansion is for the interested party to commission a gambling study.  These studies are hardly ever free of bias and seem to always show exactly what the group paying for the study wants them to say. They seem to always conveniently leave out the negative effects of gambling, including the direct negative economic impacts, and instead simply shows how much money can be made at each gambling facility.  An online source is now reporting that pro-gambling interests in Florida have managed to secure $400,000 for a new gambling study and at least one House sponsor is making no secret about the study’s direction:

Florida legislators are inking their budget deal today that includes cuts to public schools, nursing homes, hospitals and county public health departments but they have found $400,000 for a gaming study of the “revenues derived, the expenses incurred and the potential benefit for Florida from destination resorts and horse racing.”

House sponsor, Rep. Erik Fresen, said he hopes the study will help pave the way for a bill next year. “We hope a $400,000 study will result in the impetus I need to pass this that will result in tens of thousands of dollars to the state in the future,” said Fresen, R-Miami.      

Pat Fowler, the director of the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, spoke out against the measure, saying the study “will ultimately be used as the future justification for expanding gambling through Florida.  The roadmap is very clear.”

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