A Brief Look at Crime 05/28 – 6/03

Trusted employee accused of embezzling tens of thousands of dollars to feed gambling addiction

Bette Wicker was a trusted employee, working for Rod Harris at his Sunoco Gas station in Westland for 23 years. But Wicker, 61, is now accused of ripping off tens of thousands of dollars to feed a gambling addiction. In a letter obtained by 7 Action News, Wicker wrote that she and a friend used the stolen money to “go to the casino and stay there till we lost it all.” Westland Police are handling the case and investigators say Wicker is expected to turn herself in next week to face one count of Embezzlement. Bette Wicker’s husband told 7 Action News that they are not prepared to comment on the case. “She was like family,” said Rod Harris about Wicker who would even babysit his children over the years. Harris has owned the Sunoco on the corner of Cherry Hill and Newburgh for nearly 30 years. He believes Wicker has been stealing from his small gas station and repair shop for years. In late 2011, Harris began taking a close look at invoices and cash flow. He believes Wicker’s alleged actions may have put his small business about $250,000 in the hole.

Alleged internet gambling ring busted

Federal law enforcement officers and a special unit of the Bayonne Police began operations in the early morning hours of May 15, gearing up for a series of raids that would result in the arrest of 14 people in a dramatic conclusion to an investigation started in Bayonne in 2004. Some of the vehicles contained local police, part of a special organized crimes unit set up by Police Chief Robert Kubert in 2004 to look into alleged illegal gambling and mid-level narcotics trafficking believed to be going on in the city. Others were members of the FBI, who began working with local police once the investigation began to stretch beyond the borders of Bayonne. Agents with FBI in large letters on their backs watched the street and waited for the command that would set them into action – part of a coordinated operation involving several towns.

According to U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, the Genovese crime family of La Cosa Nostra operates out of smaller groups, sometimes referred to as “crews,” that work throughout northern New Jersey and elsewhere. Each crew was headed by a “captain,” “capo,” or “skipper.” Each captain’s crew consisted of “soldiers” and “associates.” The captain was responsible for supervising the criminal activities of his crew and providing the crew with support and protection. In return, the captain often received a share of the crew’s earnings. Twelve alleged members and associates of the LaScala crew were charged on May 23 in connection with an illegal, on-line gambling operation, Fishman said, and all but one were charged with racketeering conspiracy. Today’s arrests serve as a stark reminder that traditional organized crime continues to operate in New Jersey,” said Michael B. Ward.

Payday loan debts killed our son, 18

THE devastated parents of a teenager who committed suicide have said the 18-year-old took his life because of the spiralling debts he owed payday loan companies. Now Geoff and Dawn Scott are calling for a cap on sky-high interest rates charged by lenders such as Wonga. Bright IT apprentice Oliver — known as Ollie to his mates — committed suicide in September, seven months after admitting to his family he had become addicted to gambling at bingo halls. To fund his habit, Ollie used his smartphone to access a series of quick-fix loans — some with interest as high as 4,214 per cent — with the money in his account in less than 30 minutes.

Company director embezzled £85,000 wage rise to fund gambling habit

Brian Cappie was jailed for 16 months for pocketing the extra cash while working for Martec Engineering Group in Cambuslang, Glasgow. The 51-year-old former operations and finance director’s crime came to light when auditors were called into the steel firm. Cappie, of Rothesay Crescent, Coatbridge, in North Lanarkshire, previously pled guilty at Glasgow Sheriff Court to embezzling the money between September 1, 2007, and September 30, 2008. Procurator fiscal Laura Greer previously told the court Cappie was employed by the firm in September 2005. She said: “He increased his salary without authorisation and did so between the relevant dates. Auditors were brought in and following investigations it was discovered what the accused had been doing. “Thereafter the police were contacted and the accused made full admissions to auditors and the police.” The court also heard Cappie had a gambling addiction which was an “escape” from the depression he suffers.

Loan sharks get more violent

Loan sharks are becoming increasingly violent, with some setting cars on fire and throwing petrol bombs into the homes of defaulting borrowers. “While they are doing this to harass the borrowers, they are also putting the lives of others in danger,” said MCA Public Services and Complaint Department head Datuk Seri Michael Chong. Most of the victims had borrowed the money for gambling while others had taken loans to start businesses, he said. He said it was worrying that many students had also begun taking loans from loan sharks to feed their online gambling habit. “The loan sharks are not to blame entirely as many of them are victims’ as well. “Some people take loans saying they need to start businesses but use the money to gamble instead and then are unable pay back what they owe,” he said.

 NCUA Bans Fired Gambler Over $146,583 Theft From SELCO

The NCUA has issued a ban against a former employee of the $1 billion SELCO Community Credit Union in Eugene, Ore., after she was convicted of stealing $146,583 from the institution over a period of eight years to feed her gambling addiction. Lenora Jane Colburn, a former supervisor and assistant manager of two Eugene branches until she was fired in May 2011, was sentenced to a prison term, five years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution, the NCUA said in a statement on Thursday. She had been employed at the credit union for 24 years and used her position to conceal the thefts by creating bogus cash transactions, rigging internal audits and manipulating balances in cash drawers and vaults, the newspaper said.

 Postal union treasurer says gambling habit forced him to steal $80K in union funds

The treasurer of the Honolulu branch of the letter carriers union pleaded guilty Thursday afternoon to embezzling more than $80,000 from the union to feed his gambling habit. David M. Ing, 46, has been the treasurer of branch 860 of the National Association of Letter Carriers for about 14 years. He works as a mailman out of a Sand Island postal facility.  He appeared in federal court Thursday afternoon to plead guilty to stealing $83,293 in union funds.  “Because of a gambling problem, I forged checks and stole money from the union treasury,” Ing told Federal Judge Kevin Chang. According to a federal charging document filed Friday afternoon, Ing stole the union funds from January through December of 2011. 

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

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