Monthly Archives: December 2011

Top Florida Cabinet Members Join in Opposition of Proposed Destination-Casinos

Casino Watch Focus reported that a diverse group of individuals and groups were standing strong in their opposition to the Destination Casinos bill introduced by  Senator Ellyn Bogandoff.  The more mainstream groups that oppose expanded gambling include Disney, The Florida Chamber of Commerce, The Florida Hotel and Lodging Association, and The Florida Attractions Association.

Joining them is a coalition anti-gambling groups such as the No Casino, the Florida Baptist Convention, the Florida Catholic Conference, Florida Casino Watch and Florida Family Action.  The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling not only provided the statistics for current gambling issues, but they also went as far as to say that the state’s policymakers shouldn’t expand  gambling until it gets its house in order.  If that collective opposition wasn’t representative enough of those in Florida, now all three of the Florida Cabinet members have come out against these Vegas-style destination casinos.  The Palm Beach Post reports:

Attorney General Pam Bondi and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam joined forces Thursday with a coalition of law enforcement officers, social conservatives and business lobbyists determined to kill a proposal to allow three more casinos in Florida.

The pair are the state’s highest-ranking GOP officials to publicly oppose the “destination resorts” bill now working its way through the state legislature. A spokeswoman for Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, the third member of the Florida Cabinet and also a Republican, said later that he opposes the measure, too.

That leaves Gov. Rick Scott as the only executive wild card. Scott has not taken a firm stance on the measures (SB 710, HB 487), although he has repeatedly said he does not want the state to become dependent on revenues generated by the casinos. He also has said he doesn’t want a casino going into a county unless voters there approve first.

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

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A Brief Look at Crime 12/12 – 12/18

Man sentenced to three life terms for Tenafly triple murders

Convicted triple-murderer Kang Hyuk Choi was sentenced Wednesday to three concurrent life terms for the stabbing deaths of three members of a Tenafly family three years ago. Defense attorney Francis Meehan said Choi had a serious gambling addiction that depleted his finances and ruined his credit. He came into contact with Sean Kim, who had posted an online ad to help people repair their credit, Meehan said. Choi later began working for Kim, who promised him that he could earn up to $20,000 a month, Meehan said.  Choi became angry when the money never came, and after an argument at Kim’s home in May 2008, he stabbed Kim with a large kitchen knife, Choi said during his guilty plea in September. Choi then went after Kim’s uncle, Doo Soo Seo, and stabbed him repeatedly, leaving the blade inside the 70-year-old man’s body, Mello said. He then rummaged through the house, stole $30,000 in cash and fled in Kim’s BMW, Mello said.

 Troopers: Riverview man heads to casino after killing one, injuring two in crash

28-year-old man who troopers said caused a crash that killed one driver and sent two others to the hospital was arrested at the Hard Rock Casino late Sunday after fleeing the scene. Henry Michael Tippins, 28, of Riverview faces 12 charges in the aftermath of a deadly hit-and-run at the intersection of Hillsborough Avenue and 56th Street. According to Florida Highway Patrol records, Tippins was intoxicated just before 8:30 p.m. while driving a 2003 white Hummer west on Hillsborough Avenue. After searching for several hours, Tippins was located at the Hard Rock Casino, where troopers said he went directly after the crash.

 Ex-Fry’s exec in kickback scheme told to pay $65M

A former Fry’s Electronics executive convicted of wire fraud and money laundering in a multimillion dollar kickback scheme has been sentenced to six years in prison. Ausaf Siddiqui was also ordered on Thursday to pay $65.5 million in restitution. Last week, Siddiqui’s lawyer asked U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel for a three-year sentence rather than the six-year term negotiated in a plea agreement. He said his client committed the crimes to pay off enormous debts resulting from a gambling addiction.  Siddiqui has acknowledged embezzling millions of dollars from Fry’s between 2004 and 2008 by forcing vendors to pay kickbacks to ensure the company stocked their products. He filed for bankruptcy in July, listing nearly $137 million in debt, including about $20 million owed to Las Vegas casinos.

 Former AIDS group official pleads guilty to embezzling more than $100K

The former executive director of a Boston area nonprofit organization for individuals living with HIV/AIDS pleaded guilty today to charges of embezzling more than $100,000 from the organization due to a gambling problem. Valerie Tebbetts pleaded guilty in Suffolk Superior Court to three counts of larceny, and one count of making false entries in corporate books during the time she worked at the Boston Living Center. She was sentenced to five years of probation. During that time, she is expected to attend Gamblers Anonymous meetings, pay $123,500 in restitution funds to the center, and stay away from casinos and Massachusetts lottery games.

 NY bank teller stole $240K, arrested at casino

A former bank teller stole more than $240,000 from work, left an apologetic note for his boss and was arrested days later playing baccarat at an Atlantic City casino, prosecutors say. A former bank teller stole more than $240,000 from work, left an apologetic note for his boss and was arrested days later playing baccarat at an Atlantic City casino, prosecutors say.

Gambling addict embezzles $1m from audio showroom

An audio equipment salesman embezzled more than $1 million of his employer’s money, blowing most of it at a casino.  Gambling addict Tang Yong Kwok carried on swindling victims even after he was sacked from the showroom – coming up with a new ruse to cheat his customers, some of whom were old friends. The 31-year-old was jailed for six years on Monday.  The court heard he was in debt to loan sharks and gambled regularly at Marina Bay Sands, as well as on the 4-D lottery.

 Former Casino Worker Allegedly Steals Over $1 Million

Officials at Mountaineer Casino and Racetrack are trying to figure out how a former worker could steal over one million dollars. One thing we have confirmed is that 48 year-old Anita Ambler was in a position to do so. Ambler had been working as a bookkeeper at the Casino since the 1990’s. Over the time investigators and the FBI found that Ambler had allegedly been funneling money into several bogus accounts.  Ambler faces 42 felony charges including: 21 counts of mail fraud, 15 counts of wire fraud, and 6 counts of transacting in criminal proceeds.

 Former York Symphony Orchestra manager charged with stealing more than $200,000

A woman told police she stole more than $200,000 from the York Symphony Orchestra to support her gambling addiction while she was the orchestra’s office manager, according to charging documents. Phyllis Ann Shoff, 55, who also used the name Phyllis Ann LoPresti, faces five counts of theft by deception and two counts of access-device fraud. In an interview with Follmer on Aug. 11, Shoff “admitted that she had stolen money belonging to the YSO, saying only that she had a gambling problem and she didn’t realize the extent of her problem,” according to charging documents.

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


Facebook to Test Real-Money Online Gambling in UK; the Lure of Children Amongst Real-Fears

Casino Watch Focus originally reported that Facebook banned online advertisements in the United States and other jurisdictions where online gambling is illegal.  Where as it might appear Facebook was taking a hard line stance against gambling, new reports may prove otherwise.  Currently, Facebook uses a virtual money system for several of their games/apps.  A user can purchase credits that can then be used in the virtual setting for the purchase of games or items from various developers.  The online Tech Site ZDNet, reported that Facebook is now considering replacing their virtual money system with real money. The move is designed to open the doors to full scale online gambling on Facebook.  ZDNet explains:

Facebook already offers a virtual currency option known as Facebook Credits, which is used extensively in Facebook apps like social games, but the social networking giant is also reportedly interested in supporting the exchange of real money in the online gambling market. The company wants to open up the Facebook Platform to online gambling, possibly as soon as in Q1 2012. This past summer, Palo Alto held exploratory talks with approximately 20 online gaming experts, consultants, and social gaming entrepreneurs, and now it’s moving forward.

More specifically, Facebook is looking at handing out eight licenses, two per vertical, to the online gambling operators in regulated markets such as the UK, according to EGR. The company has drawn up initial licenses for different gambling operators: Gamesys, which has some 1.7 million monthly Facebook users and 888 are reportedly first in line. You read that right: gambling apps could soon start appearing on the Facebook Platform.

Its worth noting that Facebook is only looking to begin testing in the UK and if they find success, then they would  likely branch out to other countries where its legal to gamble online (which would currently exclude the United States).  As one could imagine, Facebook’s actions are drawing the ire of those in the UK concerned with the most vulnerable – their children.  The UK Daily Mail explains:

Facebook is being accused of luring children into gambling through plans to introduce real cash games. The world’s biggest social network site wants to use Britain as a testing ground for games that would let users gamble on virtual fruit machines, bingo, poker and roulette. Last night  critics expressed fears that the proposals will create a generation who believe that gambling is safe and fun.

More than 3million Facebook users in the UK are aged between 13 and 17. A further million are estimated to be under 13 but pretending to be older.  Dr Robert Lefever, founding director of the Promis Recovery Centre which treats addicts, said: ‘Introducing gambling to Facebook is a cynical way for the gambling industry to find new markets, making gambling look acceptable. ‘There will be young people who think these games have Facebook approval, that you can gamble and it’s fun. It’s not – gambling destroys families.’

Lauri Moyle, of Christian Action Research Education (CARE), said: ‘Because there is a link between the age when people start gambling and the likelihood of developing a difficulty controlling their gambling, protecting children from the normalisation of gambling is vital.’

Professor Mark Griffiths, of Nottingham Trent University, added: ‘Even when no money changes hands, young children are learning the mechanics of gambling. These games can be a gateway to more serious gambling.’

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


A Brief Look at Crime 12/05 – 12/11

Florida Rep. Erik Fresen, Pro-Gambling Lawmaker, Owes Thousands To The IRS

Over the past six months, state Rep. Erik Fresen has established himself as the go-to-politician for the gambling industry tycoons who want to bring gargantuan casino resorts to the Magic City. The lawmaker from Coral Gables is the mastermind behind one of two proposed bills that would allow Malaysian-based Genting or one of its Las Vegas competitors to build gambling castles in downtown Miami or the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Then again, considering Fresen’s own troubles with paying the IRS, maybe it’s no shock that he’s not putting taxpayers first.According to Miami-Dade court records, Fresen owes close to thirty grand in taxes to the Internal Revenue Service and $641,000 to his mortgage lender. For a guy who claims a personal net worth of $330,000, that is a lot a debt. Even worse, he didn’t list the obligations on his most recent personal financial disclosure statements.

Man murdered in JB was gambling addict, wife-beater

The ex-wife of the Singaporean man who was kidnapped and murdered in Johor Bahru revealed that he was a gambling addict who chalked up about $36,000 in debts and physically abused her. In an attempt to repay his loans, he even asked her to become a prostitute, telling her that it was a job that paid well, Lianhe Wanbao reported. Madam Lim Kum Hui, 54, was married to the deceased Mr Sim Chee Yong, 56, more than 30 years ago for a short three years. He later married a Malaysia woman, Madam Lim Chai Mooi, 50.

 Prison sentence for central figure in stolen insulin ring

As early as 2003, Worley began sending stolen insulin and diabetic test strips to Pepin, prosecutors say. He would ship an average of 100 vials of insulin a week, then Pepin would put money in Worley’s PayPal account. The business paid well. Worley got more than $620,00 from Pepin, prosecutors say. The money went to casinos and for lottery tickets to fed his gambling addiction. But he was only one of more than 50 suppliers. Pepin had been buying stolen insulin and glucose test strips since 2001 and paid more than $9.8 million for them in just five years, court documents say. The feds have closed Pepin’s business for good. On Friday, the 57-year-old Florida man was sentenced to 28 months in prison in U.S. District Court in Seattle. He was also ordered to pay $823,577 in restitution.

 Ex-FEMA worker’s husband going to jail for Katrina fraud

A Moss Point man, whose wife is in prison for using a FEMA database for a disaster-assistance scam, is also going to prison for his role in one of the country’s largest Hurricane Katrina fraud schemes. Charles Ricco Moore Sr., 36, has been sentenced to 27 months in prison followed by three years of probation. He also must help his wife, LaShonda Booker-Moore, and her cousin, Peggy Hilton, repay $66,295.32. Court papers show that is the amount of money he allowed to be deposited in his bank account. The two women and at least three other South Mississippi residents were convicted in a scam that involved more than $721,000 in disaster-assistance money. “Due to my gambling addiction, I committed a money crime,” Booker-Moore said in a letter addressed from a federal prison in Coleman, Fla. “My husband is not stupid, but he loved me very much and he was very naive,” she wrote. “I know it was all my fault that my husband and our children are in this terrible situation today.”

 Rep. John Tierney’s brother-in-law found guilty

Daniel Eremian, the brother-in-law of U.S. Rep. John F. Tierney, was found guilty today of racketeering and illegal gaming in connection with a family run multimillion-dollar Internet betting empire, but was cleared of money laundering charges by the same federal jury. Eremian, 61, a self-described professional gambler who rose from Peabody pub owner to Boca Raton country clubber through the profits from Antigua-based Sports Off Shore, will be sentenced March 8 together with his debt collector Todd Lyons. Lyons, 38, of Beverly, was convicted today of racketeering, illegal gaming, money laundering, filing false tax returns and interstate travel in aid of racketeering.

 Ex-NBA star gets probation in Vegas casino case

Former NBA star Antoine Walker was sentenced Tuesday to five years of probation and ordered to pay $770,050 in restitution to three Las Vegas casinos after pleading guilty to failing to repay gambling debts. Walker and his lawyer declined to comment after his brief appearance before Clark County District Court Judge Valorie Vega. Walker has repaid some of his Las Vegas casino debts since his arrest in July 2009 in Lake Tahoe, where he planned to play in a celebrity golf tournament. The felony charge could be dismissed if Walker fully repays the remaining debts incurred in 2008 and 2009 at the Planet Hollywood, Red Rock Casino Resort and Caesars Palace casinos, prosecutor Samuel Bateman said. Walker faces a year in prison if he violates probation.

 Bank robbery suspect arrested after using dye-stained cash at casino, police say

A  Waukegan man charged with robbing  a Naperville bank at gunpoint last month of more than $134,000 was arrested after he tried to use the dye-stained cash at a Hammond casino, authorities said. “That’s what you call low-hanging fruit,” said Ross Rice, a spokesman for the FBI, which investigated the case. This isn’t the first time Wayne Hill, 46, has been captured after allegedly robbing a bank. In 2004, he was arrested after robbing two Lake County banks wearing a fake beard, then tossing a bag with  the costume beard and a box of blank checks with his own name and Waukegan home address on a Libertyville man’s front lawn.

 Ex-Fry’s exec in kickback scheme told to pay $65M

A former Fry’s Electronics executive convicted of wire fraud and money laundering in a multimillion dollar kickback scheme has been sentenced to six years in prison. Ausaf Siddiqui was also ordered on Thursday to pay $65.5 million in restitution. Last week, Siddiqui’s lawyer asked U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel for a three-year sentence rather than the six-year term negotiated in a plea agreement. He said his client committed the crimes to pay off enormous debts resulting from a gambling addiction. Siddiqui has acknowledged embezzling millions of dollars from Fry’s between 2004 and 2008 by forcing vendors to pay kickbacks to ensure the company stocked their products. He filed for bankruptcy in July, listing nearly $137 million in debt, including about $20 million owed to Las Vegas casinos.

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


Florida Gambling Council Points to Dangers of Expanded Gambling

Casino Watch Focus has been reporting on the ongoing gambling expansion debate that has consumed the Florida political and financial landscape.  As lawmakers continue to focus on the politics and financial gains or pitfalls, the Florida Gambling Council is providing prospective on the real danger to Florida families.  An online source explains:

Throwing some cold water on casino fever, the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling says the state isn’t addressing the addiction problems it has now.

“It is not responsible policymaking to even consider expansion without taking steps to mitigate the current issues,” FCCG executive director Pat Fowler told Sunshine State News.

Fowler said the state needs to get its own house in order first.

“We already have a quarter-million people with [gambling-addiction] problems. But the state has decided not to do anything to mitigate that problem,” she said.

The Council has been vocal about the lack of resources they have been given to combat Florida’s gambling related problems.  This year alone the Council “received just $264,000 for the current fiscal year — barely a third of the compulsive-gambling fees paid to the state by Broward and Miami-Dade slot operators.” The gambling related problems in Florida have been getting worse.  The Sunshine State News reports the Councils findings:

Meantime, FCCG painted a grim picture of gambling-related problems already extant in Florida:

According to problems reported by HelpLine callers in the past year:

Crime: 35 percent reported they resorted to committing illegal acts to finance their gambling.

Unemployed/Public Assistance: 25 percent reported they were unemployed and/or collecting state assistance.

Suicide: Those reporting having suicidal ideation or attempts rose significantly from 11 percent to 16 percent of callers.

Primary Gambling Problem: The most frequently cited primary gambling problem was slots, 46 percent; cards, 33 percent; and lottery, 11 percent.   

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


A Brief Look at Crime 11/28 – 12/04

Security guard shot to death during robbery in NE Harris County

A security guard at an illegal gambling business was shot and killed during a robbery early this morning. Another person is hurt.  It all happened with customers inside and now the search is on for the two robbers who took off with an unknown amount of cash. It happened just before 5am on Beaumont Highway and Sheldon Road.  Detectives tell us when  deputies were first called out, they thought they were headed to a shooting at a tire shop.  But they say the men who robbed the place knew it was an illegal gaming operation.

 Tobey Maguire to Pay $80G to Settle Illegal Poker Ring Lawsuit

Actor Tobey Maguire has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed in connection with an illegal underground poker ring allegedly funded by victims of a Ponzi scheme. The “Spider-Man” star will pay $80,000 to settle the suit, TMZ reported Monday, citing court documents. According to the suit, Maguire took in more than $300,000 in winnings. The money had allegedly been embezzled by hedge fund manager Bradley Ruderman, who is currently in jail. The games were allegedly led by Ruderman, CEO of Ruderman Capital Partners, and funded with $25 million in defrauded investors’ money. They were unlicensed and therefore illegal under California law.

St. George millionaire arrested for allegedly writing bad $100K check in Vegas

Indicted St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson spent several hours in jail Sunday after being arrested on a warrant for allegedly writing a bad check for $100,000 at a Las Vegas casino last year. According to the Clark County District Attorney’s Office, Johnson wrote a $100,000 check for cash or gaming chips at the Wynn Las Vegas hotel and casino Nov. 26, 2010, that he did not have sufficient funds to cover. A judge issued an arrest warrant for Johnson on Oct. 20, 2011. In addition to the criminal charge, Johnson faces a Federal Trade Commission complaint filed last December alleging he bilked more than $275 million from online consumers by charging their credit cards for services they didn’t sign up for. A federal court in Nevada seized his assets and placed him under tight financial restrictions.

Mother stole £50,000 from employers to fund husband’s gambling debts

Lorna Brand, 54, operated a two and a half year scam in which she pocketed £53,167 from two different employers, Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard on Tuesday. The mother of four was left in charge of the firms’ finances and wrote herself a number of cheques which prosecutors think were used to pay off thousands of pounds worth of debt. The court heard how Brand was forced to act illegally because her estranged husband frittered his wages away on gambling. Brand, of West Calder, West Lothian, pleaded guilty to two charges of embezzlement before Sheriff James Scott who warned her that he is considering imposing jail time.

Bank executive from Congers gets 33 months, must repay theft of $670,000

A Congers bank executive was sentenced Tuesday to 33 months in prison and ordered to repay more than $670,000 he stole to cover his gambling losses. Shawn Reilly, 34, held several positions with the Union Bank of Switzerland, or UBS, from 1999 until April, said Tom Carson, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney David B. Fein, in a statement issued Tuesday evening. Between February 2009 and April of this year, while employed as a director of the bank’s settlements group in Stamford, Conn., Reilly made 84 fraudulent wire transfers that moved $673,447 of UBS money into his personal bank account, Carson said.

Reilly told investigators that his involvement in gambling began as a youth and continued through his years at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill, where he was a scholarship baseball player and a member of the basketball team. After Reilly graduated in 1999 and found full-time employment, the problem escalated, eventually spinning out of control around 2007. Reilly admitted to using his position as director to force employees below him to make false journal entries and false wire transfers into his bank account. The employees had no idea the journal entries were bogus and did not know the money was being transferred to Reilly, Carson said.

Phila. district attorney receives $150,000 grant to help fight illegal gambling

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is throwing good money after bad. The board handed over $150,000 to District Attorny Seth Williams this morning to support the investigation and prosecution of illegal gambling activity in Philadelphia. The money comes from the board’s Local Law Enforcement Grant and will be used for the salaries of the members of the DA’s Gaming Control Task Force.

Cottage Grove woman sentenced after collecting welfare while hitting casino jackpot

Reyes won thousands of dollars gambling, all the while unlawfully cashing in on the welfare system. The Cottage Grove woman had unusual luck at the casino, netting nearly $300,000 in winnings over a three year period. During that time, she also was collecting food support, medical assistance and child care benefits that exceeded $20,000, according to court records. Reyes’ luck ran out early last year when Washington County Community Services notified authorities of a fraud case. The 28-year-old Reyes was later convicted of wrongfully obtaining assistance, a felony.

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


Florida Legislator Looking to Replace One Plan of Expanded Gambling for Another

Casino Watch Focus reported that after a Florida appellate court upheld the decision of a lower court to effectively allow legislators to expand gambling without a vote of the people, the anticipated “destination casino” bills were filed.  Now, one Florida House Rep is looking to capitalize on people’s frustrations by enacting a different gambling bill.  The Miami Herald explains:

In an attempt to shift the debate from Miami casinos to the state’s bottom line, state Rep. Joe Abruzzo is filing a bill Wednesday to direct Gov. Rick Scott to give the Seminole Tribe exclusive operation of casino games in Florida for 15 more years in exchange for an annual guarantee of $750 million.

The four-page bill would authorize the governor to re-open the 20-year gambling compact signed in 2009 by Gov. Charlie Crist that now requires the Seminole Tribe of Florida to guarantee $1 billion in the first five years in exchange for the exclusive right to offer table games in Miami Dade and Broward and slot machines outside of South Florida. The tribe now pays an average of $150 million a year under the agreement.

 Abruzzo is trying to disguise the bill as one that would prevent the South Florida designation casinos, prevent expanded gambling and provide more money to the state.  He is selling it as something that wouldn’t expand gambling when he claims that “this still maintains what is a (gambling) deal but would not be that massive of an expansion. Clusters of neighborhoods based around gaming would not be popping up outside of what already exists within Indian reservations.”  However, the Seminoles wouldn’t be supportive of the bill if they had to pay out $750 million to the state with no new revenue or possible venues.  Most interestingly however, the bill would also allow the Compact to be reopened and with it, the chance for more full scale Vegas style gambling.  The Miami Herald goes on to explain what Abruzzo’s motivation for such change could be:

Abruzzo, a gambling supporter, has also filed a local bill that would allow the Palm Beach County Kennel Club to start offering slot machines – a measure that, if passed, would violate the current gambling compact with the state.

It seems plausible that he is simply attempting to allow additional gambling at current Seminole locations, while altering the compact to allow for slots and other gambling in new locations.  Either way, bills like this draw a skeptical eye and typically for good reason.  The best support to protect the families of Florida is to oppose any new attempts at expanding gambling in the state, even those who’s authors claim it “wouldn’t be that massive of an expansion.” 

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