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

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