A Brief Look at Crime 02/11 – 02/17

Ex-mayor’s $1 billion gambling woes stun San Diego

Maureen O’Connor was a physical education teacher who won a seat on the San Diego City Council when she was only 25 years old, later winning two terms as the city’s first female mayor as she charmed voters with a populist flair.  But her rapid rise was matched by her fall, culminating Thursday when she acknowledged in federal court that she took $2.1 million from her late husband’s charitable foundation during a decade-long gambling spree in which she won – and lost – more than $1 billion.  O’Connor pleaded not guilty to a money laundering charge in an agreement with the Justice Department that defers prosecution for two years while she tries to repay the foundation and receives treatment for gambling. O’Connor, 66, once had a personal fortune that her attorney estimated between $40 million and $50 million, inherited from her husband of 17 years, Robert O. Peterson, founder of the Jack in the Box Inc. fast-food chain. She is now virtually broke, living with a sister.

Fla. ex-coach facing prison in Vegas casino death

LAS VEGAS — A former high school football coach and teacher from Florida could be sent to Nevada state prison Thursday after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the one-punch death of a Utah man at a Las Vegas casino. Defense attorney Jack Buchanan said he will seek probation for his client, Benjamin Gerard Hawkins, 39, of Gainesville, who has remained free following his November conviction in the death of John Massie, 46, an occupational safety and health worker at Hill Air Force Base in Utah. Hawkins didn’t mean to kill Massie, and the felony conviction ruined his coaching and teaching career at Bradford County High School in Starke, Fla., Buchanan said. Prosecutor Maria Lavell said she will seek a sentence of one to four years in prison. Police said Hawkins had not been specific about racial taunts or what made him feel threatened. The lead investigator testified that he thought the case could fall anywhere between self-defense and murder.

 Miami police lieutenant relieved of duty in fallout from FBI corruption investigation

 A Miami police lieutenant suspected of participating in an alleged protection racket for a sports-betting ring in Liberty City was relieved of duty Friday.  Bernard Johnson, 44, who joined the police force in 1998, was relieved with pay while the FBI and Miami police internal affairs detectives continue their joint investigation into the gambling operation, which operated out of a Liberty City barber shop.  Another veteran officer, Rashad Jabbar, 50, retired last month after he was implicated in the same protection scandal. Both are among 11 Miami police officers relieved of duty in recent months who face potential criminal charges or the loss of their jobs in connection with the federal corruption investigation targeting extortion and other illegal activity. On Wednesday, a Miami police officer who wore a wire for the FBI pleaded guilty to an extortion charge. Nathaniel Dauphin, 41, admitted he received between $4,000 and $5,000 from the owner of the sports-betting business from November 2010 until March of last year.

 Split verdict for Philly mob; deadlock over boss

Reputed Philadelphia mob boss Joseph “Uncle Joe ” Ligambi will seek bail after a jury deadlocked on a racketeering charge against him, and deadlocked or acquitted him of all eight lesser counts in a gambling and loansharking case.  The federal jury on Tuesday convicted underboss Joseph “Moussie” Massimino and two others of racketeering, and convicted a mob associate of two loansharking counts.  But the jury acquitted or deadlocked on most counts against the seven defendants. Defense lawyers see the verdict as a slam of the government’s 13-year investigation into illegal gambling, video poker machines and loansharking in South Philadelphia.

 Former casino worker sentenced for embezzlement

Erika Michele Carlton, 38, of Roseville, has been sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for theft from Thunder Valley Resort and Casino in Rocklin, which is owned by the United Auburn Indian Community, a federally recognized Indian tribe. U.S. District Judge Morrison England also ordered her to repay $236,050 she stole, says U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner. According to court documents and admissions made in court, Ms. Carlton was a human resources manager at the resort and casino, with access to Thunder Valley credit cards and other sources of funds that she could use to buy items for the casino’s employees. For instance, she would use Thunder Valley funds to buy raffle prizes that were given out at employee functions such as Christmas parties. These prizes included gift cards from local merchants, electronics such as televisions, iPods, PlayStations and DVD players, and other consumer goods.

‘Professional crook’ gets 7 years for defrauding 5 sick, elderly women

A serial fraudster with drug and gambling addictions is going to jail for seven years after ripping off five elderly women, one of whom had cancer.
Mario Thouin, a 61-year-old former car salesman, showed little reaction Thursday as Quebec Court Judge Maurice Galarneau sentenced him to 10 years in prison, minus time he’s already served in pre-sentence detention.  Thouin phoned his five victims, whose names are protected under a court-ordered publication ban, 315 times between Nov. 21, 2009, and Jan. 21, 2010. He often threatened and harassed them until they gave him money, court heard.  He made up grandiose stories about his business transactions, asked to borrow money and promised to pay back his victims quickly. He hasn’t returned a cent of the nearly $200,000 he took from the women, whose ages range from 61 to 73.  In his sentencing judgment, Galarneau noted that some of the women lost their Registered Retired Savings Plans and are now in debt, while others have been rejected by their families or avoid all social situations.

Man admits conspiring to swindle millions in gift cards

A man who says he conspired to steal gift cards worth $2.2 million through his wife’s mortgage company job told a judge Tuesday that he is getting help for a gambling addiction.  Kevin Guy, 41, son of a former Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputy, faces up to five years in prison. Federal charges are pending against Michelle Guy, 39, alleged to have diverted funds for years from an employee rewards program. She worked at HSBC Mortgage Services in Brandon. It came to light in an internal investigation and the company cooperated with law enforcement, HSBC North America said. In accepting Kevin Guy’s guilty plea, Magistrate Judge Thomas B. McCoun III noted the “lengthy list of some nice stuff” seized at the couple’s former home. Guy didn’t quibble with the list, with its references to Chanel, Coach and Gucci.

Tacoma hotel chain embezzler gets 2-year sentence

Hugo Lingat Caingat, Jr., 59, of Bonney Lake, a former controller at the Aspen Lodging Group in Tacoma, was sentenced to two years in jail for embezzling more than $700,000 from the company. The government alleged that Caingat diverted more than $700,000 in income from the hotel group, which owns Tacoma’s Hotel Murano, into a dormant bank account. He used that account to pay his bills, including “significant gambling bills.”  “The defendant was a man of skill and aptitude who gained the trust of his employer and then abused it,” said U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle , in a statement after the sentencing.  After saying he would help the government investigation in May 2012, Caingat flew to the Philippines but he returned to Washington state and pleaded guilty in October 2012. Caingat was ordered to pay $750,550 in restitution, including $50,000 the company spent investigating the embezzlement.

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


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