Monthly Archives: March 2013

Update: Florida House Passes Internet Cafes Ban, Senate Expected to Follow

Casino Watch Focus reported that a major gambling investigation in Florida concluded with almost 60 arrests.  At issue were Internet Café, which have been operated all over the state.  Charges ranged from illegal gambling to racketeering. Last year the Florida House attempted a bill banning Internet Cafes, but the legislation stalled in Senate after passing in the House.  Now a local news agency is reporting that in the wake of the aftermath, the bill has passed the house and is expected to become law soon:

The Florida House has passed its version of a measure that bans Internet cafes, 108 – 7. A Senate vote is expected before the end of the month.

The ban on the gambling establishments is similar to a bill from a year ago that was not considered by the Florida Senate. This year is different in the wake of arrests and the resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll.

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, predicts the bill will be sent to Gov. Rick Scott before the session ends in early May. If the ban becomes law, it would make it clear the slot machine-style games offered by the cafes are a form of illegal gambling, and not the legal sweepstakes games the cafes claim they are.

“Members, I don’t need a study. I don’t need to wait two years to know what I think about this. It’s predatory, it’s hurting our communities,” said Rep. Jason Brodeur, (R) Sanford.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 03/18 – 03/24

Ocean’s 11 gang stole $33 million from casino by hijacking CCTV

A gang of fraudsters were able to turn an Australian gambling casino’s sophisticated surveillance system against it as they perpetrated an extraordinary of $33 million AUD (£22 million) poker fraud, it has been reported. Evoking inevitable comparisons with the famous 1960 heist movie Ocean’s 11, the raid earlier this year on Melbourne’s Crown Towers casino should have been impossible given the array of surveillance technology employed by the gambling house to defeat rogue ‘high rollers’. This kind of security system works well as long as they information relayed doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, which in this case it appears to have. Using an insider able to access the computer-based CCTV system feeds, the gang used an earpiece setup to relay information on the card hands held by rival players to a ‘whale’, a big-betting player known to tolerate losing large sums. In the course of eight hands, the unnamed man won stake after stake, eventually arousing enough suspicion for an investigation to be launched that led to his ejection from the building during the night.

 F.B.I. Inquiry Over Casino Focuses on Filipino’s Fee

TOKYO — The F.B.I. and Philippine investigators investigating potential bribery related to Universal Entertainment’s bid to build a casino in Manila have zeroed in on a $25 million payment the company now says should never have been made.  Rodolfo Soriano, a consultant with ties to the former head of the gambling regulator in the Philippines, received the fee in 2010 to secure land rights for the $2 billion casino, Universal had said. But records reviewed by Reuters show those rights were obtained free in 2009.  The F.B.I. is involved because the payment originated with a Universal subsidiary based in Nevada. Both the F.B.I. and the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation have been looking into a total of $40 million in transfers to Mr. Soriano since last year as a possible case of bribery. In a closed-door, three-day hearing with the Nevada Gaming Control Board that concluded Friday, directors of Universal, a Japanese company, were questioned about the payment, said a person familiar with the proceedings, who was not named, being without authorization to speak to the media. Among those questioned was the company’s billionaire founder, Kazuo Okada. In a statement as the hearing ended, Universal said it believed the $25 million payment to Mr. Soriano should not have been made.        

 Woman pleads guilty in betting scheme

Another former Palms race and sports book employee pleaded guilty Monday in a betting scheme federal authorities say defrauded the resort of more than $800,000. Kassie Baker, 30, entered a guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. She is to be sentenced before U.S. District Judge Miranda Du on June 24. Palms bettor Charles Pecchio also was charged in the scheme, which occurred between July 2006 and July 2007, and is considering a plea deal. Albanese is to stand trial on April 9. The Palms, which since has brought in Cantor Gaming to run its race and sports book, cooperated in the investigation. The former employees were accused of using their positions to accept invalid quinella wagers on horse races from Pecchio and others. Winning bets were paid, and losing bets were refunded. Baker, who has agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors, admitted in court Monday to being part of the scheme.

Calif. politician pleads guilty to misusing funds

A longtime Northern California politician pleaded guilty Monday to a dozen charges that he used campaign donations and taxpayer funds to fuel what he described as a gambling addiction. Former Santa Clara County Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr., entered his pleas to five felonies – including perjury and misappropriation of public funds –  as well as seven misdemeanor charges, during his appearance in a San Jose courtroom. “For years, I have suffered from depression and a gambling addiction,” Shirakawa wrote. “Unfortunately, my gambling addiction went untreated for too long which led to bad decisions and actions that I deeply regret.” According to tax records given to prosecutors by Shirakawa’s lawyers on Monday, he won about $400,000 from gambling. Prosecutors say Shirakawa moved $130,000 in and out of campaign accounts and public funds since 2008, most of it at casinos in Southern California and Las Vegas. His perjury charges date back to 2002 for filing false reports regarding five campaign bank accounts when he was elected as a trustee for a school district representing San Jose’s East Side.

 Jacksonville Police Department  targets  more gambling machines

Jacksonville police said Wednesday they are offering local residents and business owners a short grace period before they start a strong push against a certain type of computer slot-machine-style gambling. Jacksonville Police Sgt. Jason Price said officers are looking to discourage users and owners from making use of specialized “sweepstakes machines,” a form of illegal video gambling. “We’re talking about several tiers of offenses,” Price explained. “The players are committing an offense by gambling on them. The store owner is committing an offense by having them and the marketer and the corporate level people are committing and offense by marketing them.” Because the “sweepstakes machines” give people the impression they are attached to some charitable venture, it may seem to be okay to play them, Price said. “Unfortunately, the marketers of these ma-chines have done a good job of concealing the scam,” he said. “They have convinced a lot of people that it’s legal to play them – but it’s not.”

 Former city clerk charged with theft by swindle

Former Willow River City Clerk Mary Angela Leonard has been charged with one count of theft by swindle, punishable by not more than 20 years in prison, and/or a fine of $100,000.  According to a Pine County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) press release and Leonard’s court complaint, then Willow River Mayor Troy Janke spoke with Sgt. Jeff Nelson August 20, 2012, in reference to missing municipal funds. After an extensive investigation, the PCSO, working in cooperation with the city of Willow River and a forensic accounting firm, determined Leonard, 56, had taken $167,560.65 from the city treasury. The complaint states Jensen met with Leonard August 14, 2012, when she was suspended. At that time, Leonard admitted to Jensen she stole money from the city and had a gambling problem.

Woman accused of embezzling $97K

A 28-year-old North Bloomfield woman, already on probation for a scuffle with a department store employee, is scheduled to be arraigned this morning on accusations of embezzling $97,000 from a local construction company. Alicia Sardich, 1760 Kinsman Road, remains free on bond pending today’s appearance before Judge Thomas Campbell in Central District Court on charges of theft and forgery. Owners of Trumbull Contracting / Keystone Recycling called Trumbull County sheriff’s investigators Tuesday, telling them that Sardich, a secretary there for the past 14 months, stole about 30 checks over the last nine months and wrote checks to herself and to Seven Seventeen Credit Union for more than $90,000. Sardich later told detectives she has a gambling problem.

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

Florida Prosecutors Crack Down on Internet Cafes, Leads to Resignation of Lieutenant Governor and Outcries

Casino Watch Focus reported that the Florida Senate Gaming Committee Chairman John Thrasher was pushing for a moratorium on Internet Cafes.  No Casinos.Org released a press release explaining why they are dangerous to Florida families and should be banned. Now the Orlando Sentinel is reporting the deals of a major $300 million Internet Café conspiracy:

Calling their actions “callous” and “despicable,” authorities on Wednesday said the nonprofit Allied Veterans of the World — which operates Internet cafes throughout Central Florida — is a sophisticated, $300 million criminal enterprise.

A three-year, multi-agency investigation into the controversial strip-mall casinos culminated this week with the arrests of roughly 50 people, including law-enforcement officers and a Jacksonville attorney on hundreds of charges ranging from racketeering to money laundering. In total, 57 people were charged in “Operation Reveal the Deal.”

The non-profit Allied Veterans held itself out to be a charity for veterans, overseeing dozens of store-front “electronic sweepstakes” centers that it called “fund-raising centers,” according to a federal search warrant affidavit prepared by an Internal Revenue Service agent. “In fact, the ‘fundraising centers’ were nothing more than Internet casinos that operated slot machines in violation of Florida’s gambling laws,” the affidavit said. The company claimed to donate 70 to 100 percent of its proceeds to charity, according to the affidavit, but in reality, gave away about 2 percent. Allied Veterans grossed $290 million between 2007 and 2012, the affidavit said, but donated just $6 million to charity.

Among the many affected, Florida’s Lieutent Governor Jennifer Carroll drew media attention as she announced her resination after being questioned by investigators about her involvment with the company she once represented.  The Wall Street Journal explains:

Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll announced her resignation Wednesday, a day after she was questioned by authorities investigating an Internet cafe company that she once represented.

Ms. Carroll’s resignation letter to Gov. Rick Scott, dated Tuesday, offered no details about her reason for leaving. But Mr. Scott’s chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, said she was interviewed by Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers Tuesday regarding her work with Allied Veterans of the World.

She resigned to ensure her ties to the company would not be a distraction for the administration, he said. Ms. Carroll, a Navy veteran, had owned a public-relations firm that represented that company.

Florida Governor Rick Scott released a statement shortly after the resignation.  He provided some details but didn’t elaborate too much:

“Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll consulted for this company in 2009 and 2010 when she was serving in the Florida House of Representatives. FDLE interviewed Lt. Gov. Carroll yesterday related to her work for the company.

“Lt. Gov. Carroll resigned yesterday in an effort to keep her former affiliations with the company from distracting from our important work on behalf of Florida families. I will not elaborate on the details of her resignation further, other than to say that she resigned and she made the right decision for the state and her family.

“We appreciate her willingness to step up and serve our state. She was a tireless advocate for Florida’s military and our mission to create more jobs. We are grateful for her service.

 Lt. Gov Carroll commented to the press regarding her role in the investigation and her decision to resign:

[Former Florida Lieutenant Gov. Jennifer Carroll] said that she did not believe that she, or her former public relations company, were targets of the investigation. Carroll also said she would not withdraw from “public life.”

“My decision yesterday to resign as Lieutenant Governor represents my unwavering commitment to the great state of Florida,” Carroll said in the lengthy statement. “I simply refuse to allow the allegations facing a former client of my public relations firm to undermine the important work of the Governor and his administration.”

The actions of this large network of Internet Cafes are understandably upsetting. This particular organization was supposed to be donating money to Veterans, so naturally they spoke out on the matter as well:

Bill Carter is a local Vietnam-era veteran. Wednesday night he was left feeling betrayed and blindsided, he says, by those he once thought of as brethren. “It’s probably one of the greatest injustices that you’ll hear anything about,” said Carter. “To betray a trust like that is just unfathomable.” “Claiming to be an organization designed to help veterans in order to run an illegal scheme insults every American who ever wore a military uniform,” said Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Many veterans didn’t want to go on camera after the news broke, fearful this will be a black eye for veteran’s organizations nationwide. “I just think it’s a real bad thing for the rest of us veterans’ organizations that are trying to do good,” said one local veteran who didn’t want his identity revealed.

To those behind the scheme, the ones Carter calls the lowest of low, he says it’s an insult to everything our nation’s heroes fought so hard for. “It literally makes you want to cry. Friends of mine have died. Their blood has been left on the battlefield. For someone to take money is probably the most disgusting thing I can think of behind child molestation,” said Carter.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 03/11 – 03/17

NJ man admits role in fatal casino carjacking

A southern New Jersey man has admitted he fatally shot a man and wounded a woman during a carjacking inside an Atlantic City casino parking garage. Camden resident Phillip Byrd pleaded guilty Wednesday to felony murder in a plea deal with Atlantic County prosecutors, who’ll recommend he receive a 47-year prison term when he’s sentenced in June. Byrd and two other Camden men were accused of robbing 28-year-old Sunil Rattu and 24-year-old Radha Ghetia in September 2011. The victims were forced to drive from the Trump Taj Mahal parking garage to an alley, where they were shot. Rattu died from two gunshot wounds to the head. Ghetia survived two shots in the upper body. Another defendant also has pleaded guilty. The other is due in court Thursday.      

 One stop spree: Embezzle, gamble and lose, all at the same casino

When the controller of some restaurants and clubs at Foxwoods Resort Casino allegedly stole some $2.5 million in cash deposits, apparently some of the money casino gamblers had spent at the clubs made a circuitous route back to the gaming floor. The controller and her husband proceeded to lose $1.4 to Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun at the same time the cash deposits went missing, according to federal authorities who secured a grand jury indictment  in the case late last year. According to an IRS agent’s affidavit, which has been unsealed by the court, the bulk of the money Scheuffler allegedly embezzled came from bags of cash that the businesses she supervised bundled up at the end of the night shift. The controller would open the bags and remove money she was meant to stock ATMs with, according to the affidavit. But much more was discovered missing from the bags than got placed in the ATMs, a forensic audit later uncovered.

 Mass. organized crime boss gets 4-year sentence on loan sharking, gambling charges

A 64-year-old North Andover man described by prosecutors as the “overall boss” of a loan sharking and illegal gambling enterprise has been sentenced to up to four years in prison. Joseph Giallanella was also sentenced Monday to two years of probation upon release. Giallanella had pleaded guilty in January to charges including managing a gaming enterprise, using a telephone for gaming, criminal usury, two counts of conspiracy and two counts of accessory after the fact of larceny. Prosecutors say he strong-armed debtors using threats and violence. Giallanella and an enforcer had extortion victims all over the state who they “stalked, threatened, coerced, harassed and in one instance beat for money,” according to court documents.

 Philly-area ambulance worker stole $642K

Police say a secretary for a suburban Philadelphia ambulance company stole $642,000 from the nonprofit over four years, allegedly to support a gambling habit. The Bucks County Courier Times reports 56-year-old Danette Lewchick was sent to Bucks County prison Monday after being unable to post $25,000 bail on theft and related charges. Authorities say she became the Warrington Community Ambulance’s financial secretary in 2008. She allegedly took money from the company’s account and put it toward her personal use. Her attorney, Jeffrey Solar, says she has “a severe gambling addiction.” Police say many of her withdrawals were made at Parx Casino in Bensalem, or at banks between the casino and her home and job.

 Internet cafes described as $300 million conspiracy

Calling their actions “callous” and “despicable,” authorities on Wednesday said the nonprofit Allied Veterans of the World — which operates Internet cafes throughout Central Florida — is a sophisticated, $300 million criminal enterprise. A three-year, multi-agency investigation into the controversial strip-mall casinos culminated this week with the arrests of roughly 50 people, including law-enforcement officers and a Jacksonville attorney on hundreds of charges ranging from racketeering to money laundering. In total, 57 people were charged in “Operation Reveal the Deal.” The non-profit Allied Veterans held itself out to be a charity for veterans, overseeing dozens of store-front “electronic sweepstakes” centers that it called “fund-raising centers,” according to a federal search warrant affidavit prepared by an Internal Revenue Service agent. “In fact, the ‘fundraising centers’ were nothing more than Internet casinos that operated slot machines in violation of Florida’s gambling laws,” the affidavit said. The company claimed to donate 70 to 100 percent of its proceeds to charity, according to the affidavit, but in reality, gave away about 2 percent. Allied Veterans grossed $290 million between 2007 and 2012, the affidavit said, but donated just $6 million to charity.

 Okla. couple accused of violating Fla. gaming laws

An Oklahoma technology company owner was arrested Tuesday in connection to allegations that he made $290 million after supplying illegal gambling software in Florida and claiming the games’ proceeds would benefit a veterans group.  Chase Egan Burns, 37, turned himself in to sheriff’s deputies in Oklahoma on a felony charge of being a fugitive from Florida, where he is facing several charges including racketeering and conspiracy, according to a formal accusation filed by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office. Burns’ wife also has been arrested. Court documents allege Burns and other owners of gambling units he supplied claimed that the money played and lost on the games would be donated to Allied Veterans. But authorities said the veterans group received less than 1 percent of the proceeds. Prosecutors said they believe Burns earned more than $290 million on the gaming software and units.

Cuyahoga prosecutors seize money from Internet cafe supplier

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cuyahoga County prosecutors have seized $1.8 million that they say was generated by illegal gambling at Internet cafes. About half of the money was confiscated Monday from a credit union account in the name of VS2 Worldwide Communications, a New Jersey company that supplies software for computer games played in the storefront cafes. A Cuyahoga County judge authorized the move, adding to funds previously taken in a criminal case.  Owners and lawyers say the unregulated cafes — which number as many as 800 in Ohio — are legitimate businesses that sell Internet or telephone time and throw in computerized sweepstakes games as a marketing tool. Prosecutors say the businesses are a facade for illegal gambling on games that mimic slot machines.

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

2013 NCAA Basketball Tournament Underway: Billions to be Gambled and Billions to be Lost

Selection Sunday has passed and the Bracketolgoy can now begin. As the country gears up for another year of March Madness its important to understand the impact that office pools have on employers and the communities. Obviously, not all office pools will result in gambling, however, a vast majority do involve illegal gambling. A USAtody article points to reports of online pools that take an entry fee and award cash and prizes. These pools may seem harmless but FBI spokesman Ross Rice explained that,‘“There could be a violation if there’s a payout and if the operators take a cut.” So how many people will engage in office pools this time of year and how will it impact work productivity? The St Louis post dispatch provides some good insight:

Nearly half of U.S. workers have participated in an office pool, and nearly a quarter have watched or followed sports events on their computer at work, according to a recent survey. 10 percent of employees have called in sick to watch or attend a game. 11 percent of workers aged 18 to 24 have participated in an office pool, compared to 77 percent of those 65 and older.

Very few employers offer guidance in their policies regarding office pools, even though it may mean taking a hit in terms of productivity, said John Heins, chief human resources officer for recruiting and staffing company Spherion Corp.

In terms of cost to employers, the Charlotte Observer points to a Chicago-based survey which says as much as $1.7 billion will be lost by employers in productivity, which breaks down to $109 million lost for every 10 minutes spent following the tournament. They believe there will be over 37 million workers participating in pools with 1.5 million watching games and results online from their desks.

The Charlotte Observer went on to quantify the financial impact of just the gambling.  On the low estimates they point to Terry Elman, acting executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling in New Jersey, who said “As much as $750 million is wagered on the tournament in office pools each year.”  On the high end, Lazer wager, an online sports, casino and entertainment gambling website, was reported claiming that, “with bracket pools ranging from $5 to $25 per person, office pools are now worth an incredible $2.5 billion.”

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

A Brief Look at Crime 03/04 – 03/10

Taiwan gang hit man gets prison in Vegas killing

Wen Jun Li crossed the wrong people while racking up a $10,000 gambling debt in Las Vegas. It ended up costing him his life. Li was slashed and stabbed 32 times while frantically trying to escape a ruthless hit man for an Asian gang who was dressed in black and had tracked him to a dark karaoke bar several blocks west of the Las Vegas Strip. Xiao Ye Bai, 26, a man prosecutors called an enforcer for a Taiwan-based gang known as United Bamboo, was sentenced Tuesday to life without parole in a Nevada state prison for Li’s bloody killing – plus what could amount to another lifetime for slashing two other people in the July 2009 attack at the Forbes KTV bar and restaurant. Judge Michael Villani on Tuesday called the attack “senseless.” He sentenced Bai to life in prison for Li’s murder, and added a sentence of 32 to 85 years for Bai’s convictions on kidnapping, extortion, conspiracy to commit murder, and other felony charges.

Police Involved In Horrific Gambling Massacre

The Philippines has long suffered from major corruption and violence problems. Back in 2009, for instance, 57 defenseless civilians including 34 journalists were massacred in a field for their support of a local politician.  Now the Southeast Asian country has plunged further depths after 13 people including lottery racket boss Vic Siman, were summarily executed by police and military personnel looking to protect Siman’s local gambling boss rival. Originally, law enforcement officials under Superintendent Hansel Marantan, claimed the shootout occurred after a criminal gang tried to ram through a security checkpoint in a town three hours from Manila. However, when the country’s media reported local gambling boss Vic Siman and five police and military officers protecting him were amongst the dead, Philippine President Benigno Aquino felt compelled to order an investigation.

Ex-nonprofit bookkeeper sentenced to two years for tax crimes

A former McLean resident who embezzled more than $800,000 from a nonprofit tied to the Unification Church and then failed to report the income on her tax returns was sentenced to two years in prison, prosecutors said.  Sookyeong Kim Sebold, the former bookkeeper of the nonprofit, was sentenced to the prison time on Friday and was also ordered to pay $133,548 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service. She was convicted in December of filing a false 2005 tax return and tax evasion for the year 2005. Sebold, 52, had worked as a bookkeeper and treasurer for the Korean Cultural and Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit organization that was founded to promote Korean culture and ballet. The foundation was primarily funded by the Unification Church International, which had ties to the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon. During Sebold’s trial in federal court in Alexandria, evidence showed that from 2002 to 2005, she embezzled more than $800,000 from the foundation and used the money for day trading, gambling and other personal expenses, according to prosecutors.

 Fraudster who stole from wounded veterans is jailed for three years

A fraudster who stole money destined for injured war heroes has been jailed for three years – after blowing the cash on speedboats, women and luxury hotels. Christopher O’Neill conned Welsh Government politicians into giving him £125,000 to create a hotel for wounded ex-soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. But O’Neill, 51, blew the taxpayers’ money on a lavish spending spree. A court heard he splashed out on speedboats, gambling debts, high living and trying to romance three women at the same time. A court heard he set up the Forces For Good trust to help ex-armed forces personnel suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to return to civilian life. Judge Niclas Parry said: “This was nothing other than a sophisticated high value scam. “It was a wicked deception on the public purse. Any right-minded person would be sickened. “Your wicked lies involve deceiving vulnerable former soldiers who had truly served their country and meant something, who had seen horrors and had their lives blighted.

 Suspected Cockfighting Ring Shocks Ohio City

Cockfighting is considered a “blood sport” that pits roosters against each other, often until their death.  Cleveland police say it was going on inside a home in, of all places, Ohio City. Police responded to a call for possible dog fighting inside a house on West 30th Street Saturday afternoon. When they arrived, they heard noises from the basement and found not dogs, but roosters fighting. Charlotte Hardy lives on the street and was shocked to hear about the cockfighting. “I think it’s really terrible to abuse any kind of animals.  I just can’t picture it,” she said. Police say they found two dead roosters and 43 live ones inside the house.  The say there were forty men watching the cockfighting. Police say the homeowner was arrested for felony cruelty to animals and gambling charges.

 Ontario police seize $1.6M in cash in new gaming raids

Eighteen people face charges following a series of raids in southern Ontario today, which police say are related to an illegal gaming operation that was previously targeted on Super Bowl Sunday. York Regional Police Deputy Chief Bruce Herridge told a news conference Tuesday that search warrants were executed in Toronto, Barrie, in York Region and also in London. The raids involved numerous Ontario police forces that have been working together on an ongoing investigation into Platinum Sports Book, an offshore gaming website that police allege is run by members of organized crime. Herridge said Tuesday’s raids had targeted both personal residences and financial institutions. “Approximately $1.6 million in cash, two handguns, a Taser, numerous computers, cellphones, betting lists, ledgers, bank statements, drafts and documents relating to criminal organizations were seized today,” said Herridge, when detailing the haul that police claimed following the raids.

 Glen Rock man charged with investment fraud

Federal authorities arrested a Glen Rock man and an alleged co-conspirator Thursday morning and charged them with defrauding 15 victims of $5 million through a series of phony real estate investment deals, including schemes involving an Atlantic City casino and a pizzeria in the Bahamas. Paul Mancuso, 46, was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and made an initial court appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo in U.S. District Court in Newark, prosecutors said. Also charged with the same allegation was Pasquale Stiso, 52, of West Harrison, N.Y. Prosecutors said the pair were “heavily involved” in illegal gambling, with Mancuso paying $600,000 for gambling losses to a bookmaker, to whom the Glen Rock man also owed $500,000 for gambling losses. The two men could face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss from their crimes, whichever is the greatest.

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

UPDATE: NCAA Pulls Ban After NJ Sports Betting Law Struck Down by Courts

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts of New Jersey to enact a sports betting law that is opposed by the NCAA, NFL, MLB, NHL and most recently the Federal Government.  The bill was passed and then immediate challenged in court.  An online source is reporting that the law has been struck down:

A federal judge on Thursday upheld a 21-year-old law prohibiting sports betting in 46 of 50 states, dealing a setback to New Jersey’s attempts to revive its struggling casino industry by grabbing a piece of what has become a multibillion-dollar industry, both legal and illegal.

The defeat was the second for New Jersey in a lawsuit filed last year by the four major pro sports leagues and the NCAA. In a December ruling, U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp denied the state’s claim that the leagues and NCAA didn’t have standing to bring the suit because they couldn’t demonstrate tangible harm to their products if New Jersey were to allow sports betting.

In arguments earlier this month, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, representing the Justice Department, said the Constitution empowers Congress to regulate an interstate industry such as sports gambling and to treat states differently.

During this period, the NCAA placed a ban on certain sports events from being held in New Jersey schools. Trenton lost out on an opportunity to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Women’s Basketball tournament this year and it has possibly prevented Newark from hosting the Men’s NCAA tournament in 2015.  The USA Today is now reporting that given the ruling, the NCAA is lifting those restrictions:

The NCAA has lifted a recent ban against New Jersey schools being allowed to host tournament games or championships sanctioned by college sports’ governing body.

The NCAA informed its member schools of the decision in a memo after U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp in Trenton issued a permanent injunction Thursday barring New Jersey from offering sports betting in the state.

In a statement issued late Wednesday afternoon, the NCAA said the court ruling determined that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 was constitutional and continues to outlaw sports betting nationwide, excluding a few states.

“As a result, effective immediately, New Jersey-based member schools are allowed to host non-predetermined sites of NCAA championships,” the NCAA statement said. “Going forward, New Jersey schools and conferences may also be considered to host future championships events. We are excited that New Jersey student-athletes can now compete on their home field.”

 It was a great gesture by the NCAA, but NJ Gov. Chris Christie immediately fired back saying he is committed to appealing the case. An online source explains:

Gov. Chris Christie says he’ll take the fight to legalize sports gambling in New Jersey to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary. Even after a recent federal court defeat, Christie said Thursday he plans to continue his push for sports betting in his state.

“I’m appealing it, so if they (the NCAA) think I’ve changed my mind, they’re wrong. I’ll appeal it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if I can, and will,” Christie said after visiting a group home  for people with disabilities.

The state must first appeal the judge’s ruling to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A defeat there would leave the Supreme Court as the last legal avenue, though there is also the option of amending the 1992 law in Congress. Two New Jersey congressmen have proposed bills that would give New Jersey and other states the chance to approve legal sports betting.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 02/25 – 03/03

Man who gambled away pension guilty of killing wife

A Santa Ana man was found guilty Wednesday of killing his wife after she asked him to move out of their home because he gambled away $100,000 in pension money and had an  extramarital affair. Agustin Armaraz Espinoza, 58, was convicted of fatally beating Marisela Espinoza, his longtime wife, in July 2010 and fleeing briefly to Mexico, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office. According to prosecutors, Espinoza gambled away $100,000 in pension money and was in possession of a prepaid cellphone containing text messages regarding an extramarital sexual relationship. His wife, after learning of her husband’s gambling and cheating, demanded that he move out of their Santa Ana house. Authorities said Espinoza bludgeoned his wife and left her body in the bedroom of their home. He fled to San Bernardino and attempted to use his wife’s debit card before fleeing to Mexico.

Crook gambling addict admits stealing from employer

A GAMBLING addict stole from his employer in an attempt to pay off debts of more than £50,000 a court heard. Paul Andrew Dodds admitted stealing £4,000 from Coral bookmakers in Bishop Auckland at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates Court today (Monday, February 25). Andy Clinton, mitigating, said the 46-year-old was addicted to gambling and, at one point, had debts in excess of £80,000. He emphasised how Dodds had no previous convictions and had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity, adding: “He knows what he has done wrong and wants to put it right as soon as possible.” On returning to court, Mr McGuire described the thefts as unsophisticated and said Dodds had acted out of desperation.  He said Dodds accepted what he had done was wrong and that he would ultimately get caught but had felt he had no choice. “He has hit rock bottom and he needs help with his gambling,” said Mr McGuire. “It’s as simple as that.”

 Democratic party chief suspect in embezzlement

SEATTLE — A state Democratic Party strategist is under investigation for allegedly stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the campaign committee he ran for Democrats in the state Senate. Three Democratic senators said Saturday they are trying to figure out how long the now-suspended executive director Michael King allegedly had been embezzling from the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee and how much had been taken. “The evidence at this point is pretty clear that there was money taken by Michael for his benefit,” Paul Lawrence, attorney for the committee said Saturday. He didn’t know how much had been taken. But when asked about reports that it could range between $35,000 and $100,000 he said: “We’re certainly looking at reimbursements at the high end of that range.” King told friends he’s battling addictions to alcohol and gambling, senators said.

 W. Pa. health exec stole $713K for gambling

PITTSBURGH—A fired executive of western Pennsylvania’s second-largest hospital network has been arrested on charges he stole $713,000 to feed his gambling habit.  Online court records don’t list attorneys for 52-year-old Ira Johnson, of Penn Hills, who was in custody Monday and awaiting arraignment on charges he stole the money from West Penn Allegheny Health System from 2006 until he was fired in November 2011.  Johnson was manager of patient financial services and later manager of revenue/cash receipts when he allegedly deposited health system checks into two accounts that appeared to belong to medical practices. In reality, Allegheny County investigators say Johnson was withdrawing the money at casinos in Pittsburgh, Erie and in Illinois, New Jersey and West Virginia.     

 Mobster sentenced in gambling, loan-sharking operation

A North Jersey mobster, who admitted to participating in the affairs of Philadelphia’s La Cosa Nostra, was sentenced today to a 55 month term in federal prison. Louis “Big Lou” Fazzini, 45, pleaded guilty in October to a racketeering conspiracy charge linked to a mob-controlled gambling and loan-sharking operation. A self-described “made” member of the mob, Fazzini, of Caldwell, operated a sports bookmaking business and ran a social club in northern New Jersey where illegal gambling on card and dice games occurred regularly. In addition, he devised a scheme to get health benefits through a “no show” job at a trash hauler controlled by the Philly mob.

 Man convicted in disability fraud case

An Independence man who collected Social Security disability benefits for more than 15 years even though he had a job and an active lifestyle was found guilty in federal court Monday. Charles Daniel Koss, 63, was convicted of two counts of theft of government money, one count of Social Security disability fraud, one count of mail fraud and one count of transmitting a false negotiable instrument with the intent to defraud the government. He could be sentenced to up to 61 years in federal prison without parole. Prosecutors said Koss received $212,768 in Social Security disability payments between 1994 and 2010 even though he worked as a full-time loan officer in a mortgage business. In order to qualify for disability benefits, a person must be unable to perform substantial work. Prosecutors say Koss enjoyed bowling, golfing, horseshoes and boating at his lake house. He also frequented a casino where he gambled a total of $260,000.

 Former commodities broker gets 4 years in fraud

A former commodities broker has been sentenced to four years in federal prison for defrauding a half-dozen customers of approximately $2.5 million and causing them to lose approximately $1.3 million, the U.S. Department of Justice reported Tuesday.  Joshua T.J. Russo, 31, of Chicago, a former vice president of alternative investments for Olympus Futures Inc. (previously Peak Trading Group), pleaded guilty in November to commodities fraud. Between March 2007 to April 2011, he obtained approximately $2.5 million from six investors and caused losses of more than $1.3 million, including $208,000 in commissions for himself that he spent on gambling, vacations, clothing, theater tickets, meals, and entertainment.

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