A Brief Look at Crime 09/19 – 09/25

Feds: Tierney kin’s gambling ring took in $22M

A multimillion-dollar sports betting Web site run by U.S. Rep. John Tierney’s brothers-in-law “was truly a family affair” and paid $500,000 for a helicopter on top of at least $20,000 in personal purchases by the Salem Democrat’s convicted wife, according to newly filed court papers.

The high-flying expenditure was part of a $10 million gambling profits money-laundering scheme outlined in the brief filed by federal prosecutors ahead of the trial of Patrice Tierney’s brother, Daniel Eremian, next month. Meanwhile, at least $22 million in receipts were collected by the operation, the feds said.

Free on a $250,000 bond, Daniel Eremian declined comment yesterday when reached at home in Florida. He will be tried alongside Todd Lyons, 38, of Beverly, who prosecutors say collected more than $22 million in debts for the brothers between 1998 and 2006. Charged with racketeering, illegal gambling and money laundering, he did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.

Crown patrons have been bashed, burned, sexually assaulted

A log of ambulance call-outs to the Southbank establishment reveals the full extent of injuries and accidents, with 231 serious incidents reported in the first seven months of this year. Visitors to the Melbourne casino have also suffered heart attacks and strokes, attempted suicide and been electrocuted on the gambling floor or in the entertainment complex. Separate data from the National Coroner’s office shows 22 people have died unexpectedly at the casino in the past nine years. Fourteen deaths were deemed to be from natural causes. There was also a suicide, a fall and two drug overdoses. Four other deaths are still being probed by the State Coroner, including a woman in her 60s who died in 2009, an infant and a 45-year-old man who both died last year and Arthur Dunning who died after a confrontation with bouncers at the casino this year.

Employee of Pompano company accused of stealing nearly $1.1 million

An employee of a Pompano Beach electronics business was arrested Tuesday after being accused of embezzling nearly $1.1 million in 27 months. She admitted to her boss she took money because of a gambling problem, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest affidavit.  Yvette Snellbaker, 45, had been the controller for Lynn Electronics, overseeing the finances of the company that specializes in copper and fiber cabling applications, according to Sheriff’s reports. She had worked for Lynn Electronics since 1999, moving from the Pennsylvania office to the Florida operation in 2009.  When the owner confronted Snellbaker last month about missing money, she admitted writing checks to herself and blamed her actions on gambling, according to Sheriff’s reports.

U.S. Alleges Full Tilt Poker Was Ponzi Scheme

The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday accused poker celebrities Howard Lederer and Christopher Ferguson among other executives of a major poker website of defrauding poker players out of more than $300 million. The U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York filed a motion Tuesday to amend an earlier civil complaint to allege that Mr. Ferguson, Mr. Lederer and two other directors for the website, Full Tilt Poker, operated what the Justice Department says was a Ponzi scheme that allowed the company to pay out $444 million to themselves and other owners, which included other famous poker players.

In the motion to amend the complaint, the government alleges Full Tilt executives misrepresented to the website’s players that the money the company was supposed to be holding in player accounts was safely held when it was actually being used for other purposes, including payments to owners. The distributions to the owners, including Mr. Ferguson and Mr. Lederer, continued even as funds to pay out creditors—the poker players—dwindled because government investigators had made it increasingly impossible to move player money into company-affiliated bank accounts, the government says. “Full Tilt was not a legitimate poker company, but a global Ponzi scheme,” said Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, in a statement.

SD woman who oversaw estates sentenced

A woman appointed by a San Diego probate court to oversee estates and conservatorships has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for stealing some of those funds to support a gambling addiction. Private fiduciary Teresa Laggner was sentenced Monday. She pleaded guilty earlier this year to wire fraud and money laundering. Federal prosecutors say Laggner drained hundreds of thousands of dollars from client trust accounts. Laggner used the money to feed a gambling habit that ate up more than $1 million in losses over the past four years. Laggner was given the authority to open bank accounts for the trust assets under her management. She was overseeing $20 million in assets last year.

Police say son killed parents in Ramot double murder

Maoz is accused of murdering his two parents on August 14, possibly in connection to hundreds of thousands of shekels of gambling debts. He was arrested at his apartment in Tel Aviv on September 11, nearly a month after the murders. Siblings Nir and Tamar Maoz sat stoically in the courtroom and refused to look at their brother save a few glances. Police notified the family on Tuesday that they were going to indict Daniel in the murder. Police said the family was “in shock” but decided not to defend Daniel against the accusations. The bodies of Nurit and Noah Maoz were discovered on August 14 by their other son, Nir, who went to the couple’s home after both had failed to show up for work. Nurit Maoz worked at the Justice Ministry and Noah worked at a dentists’ office in Malha.

Banker who stole from customers sentenced to six years

The former assistant manager of a Coos Bay bank was sentenced Wednesday to nearly six years in federal prison for stealing more than $625,000 from 10 customers — most of them ill, disabled or elderly. U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken also ordered 38-year-old Shawna Saia to pay $626,553 in restitution to her former employer, Wells Fargo Bank, which has paid that sum to Saia’s victims. Court records show that Saia became a personal banker for the victims, then used their actual identities to create ATM cards which she used to steal money from their accounts. She also befriended and socialized with her scammed customers.

Defense attorney Mark Weintraub told Aiken that Saia’s behavior was driven in part by a gambling addiction. As part of Saia’s sentence, Aiken ordered her to write a letter to Gov. John Kitzhaber, the head of the state Lottery Commission and Oregon’s congressional delegation, explaining when and why she started gambling, how it got out of control, how much she lost, who she hurt and what she thinks she needs for treatment. Aiken said she orders such letters to remind state leaders that “if we’re going to have the availability of gambling, there needs to be a reciprocal fund that takes care of people who are addicted to gambling.”

Gambling addict’s suicide a ‘wake-up call’: husband

B.C. casinos need to do more to help addicted gamblers, says a man whose wife killed herself after running up more than a $100,000 in debt at a downtown Vancouver casino. Yoo Choi was a second-generation Korean-Canadian from Camrose, Alta., who made her mark in Vancouver as the fun-loving owner of the once-popular Velvet Café on Broadway. But according to her husband Mark Dawson, Choi had a secret and compulsive gambling habit which she battled for years to kick. After eventually racking up $150,000 in debt, playing much of the time at Vancouver’s Edgewater Casino, Choi registered herself in the casino’s voluntary exclusion program. She got counselling as she struggled with her addiction, and her husband thought she was in the clear. Then on the night of June 16, she called him to apologize because she had started to gamble again, and then she disappeared. Twenty-six days later her body was found floating in Lynn Canyon on Vancouver’s North Shore. Dawson says he wishes he knew then that problem gamblers are twice as likely to commit suicide as other addicts. “If I had known, I might have been able to talk her home. It wasn’t on my radar at all,” he said. “I might have been able to say, ‘let me hear you start the car, stay on the phone with me while you drive home.'”

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

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