A Brief Look at Crime 04/08 – 04/14

Voracious ‘Veterans’ Casinos Face RICO Claim

“Allied Veterans” Internet casinos raised $290 million by claiming “most” of the money would go to veterans’ charities, but kept more than 98 percent of it, consumers claim in a RICO class action. Lead defendants Allied Veterans of the World and Affiliates, Allied Veterans Management Group and International Internet Technologies are among dozens sued in Federal Court by lead plaintiff Linda Stepps. Stepps claim the defendants ran their scam from 2007 to 2012. The complaint states: “Defendant Allied Veterans of the World Inc. and its associated defendant companies participated in a multi-state and multi-county business that conducted illegal gambling in Internet casinos under the guise of legal electronic sweepstakes. To promote their business, defendants and others operated the Internet casinos utilizing the trade name of ‘Allied Veterans’ and represented that they donated anywhere from ’70 percent,’ ‘most’ to ‘all’ of the net proceeds or profits from their gambling operations for the benefit of American war veterans. “This class action is brought for actual damages, treble damages and attorney’s fees to redress violations of Federal law, Florida law, and deceptive and unfair trade practices arising out of defendants’ illegal business operations.” Stepps seeks class certification and punitive damages for RICO conspiracy, deceptive trade, breach of contract and other charges.

Embezzling hockey group treasurer gets 8 months for tax evasion

To Steven Brier, it seemed a sure-fire plan. Feeling guilty for embezzling from the state’s amateur hockey association, he planned to quietly repay the money before anyone noticed it was gone.  His plan: Win the money back at the casino. The flaw in his plan: Gambling was why he’d taken the money in the first place, and gambling was how he had lost more than $384,000 of it.  Brier, 55, of Oakdale, was sentenced to eight months in federal prison on Wednesday, April 10 — not for embezzling, but for tax evasion. He’d failed to report the money he’d stolen as income. “I’m terribly, terribly sorry for everything I did,” the former insurance agent and treasurer for District 2 of Minnesota Hockey told U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle in St. Paul. “The defendant used the District 2 account as his own personal expense account, primarily to fund his gambling activities,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Ueland wrote in his pre-sentencing memo.

 New London woman sentenced for thefts

A New London woman who stole and helped others steal at least $350,000 from casinos, stores and places she worked across the region was sentenced Tuesday to three years in prison. Shauntay Ellis, 26, was involved in a variety of schemes, Assistant State’s Attorney Lawrence Tytla said, including helping her father, Joseph Ellis of New London, use fake Discover cards to get cash and merchandise from local businesses. She used a credit card with her name but someone else’s account number to buy items for herself. Ellis also stole from a store where she worked by reporting phony returns and pocketing the cash for them, Tytla said.

 57 Charged With Operating Illegal Sports Betting Ring

Thirty-four individuals and 23 entities have been indicted and accused of operating an illegal sports bookmaking business that solicited more than $1 billion in illegal bets, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma Sanford C. Coats. Legendz Sports out of Panama City, Panama is named in the indictment along with other individuals connected to the sports betting operation. The indictment alleges that Legendz Sports sought to maximize the number of gamblers who opened wagering accounts by offering both “post-up” betting, which requires a bettor to first set up and fund an account before placing bets and “credit” betting, which allow the bettor to place a wager without depositing money in advance through face-to-face meetings with bookies or agents.

 Clerk who stole $400K gets jail time

A woman who stole  $400,000 from the La Crescent-Hokah School District to fuel a gambling addiction has reached a plea deal with prosecutors and will pay back some of the money. Mary Chris Turner will also serve one year in jail and be placed on probation for 20 years. She’ll be sentenced May 8. An accounts-payable clerk in the district, Turner stole the money over 10 years by making cash withdrawals on district credit cards and cashing checks written to herself. Turner told Judge James Fabian she used the stolen money to sustain her gambling habit, which, according to police reports, included trips to a local casino and bingo at Church of the Crucifixion in La Crescent. Turner said she is being treated for her addiction, something she’ll continue in jail. She’ll also have work privileges.

 Jail officers arrested in sprawling gambling probe

Two correction officers implicated in an illegal gambling investigation were arrested shortly after they arrived for work Wednesday at the Albany County jail. The arrests are part of a broader, multi-state investigation that began in Albany three years ago. Carucci, known as “Oink,” was busted in 2008 as one of two ringleaders in the largest gambling case in Albany County history. In that case, which involved a $56 million Syracuse-to-Albany Internet betting ring, Carucci operated out of the private Veteran Friendship social club on Route 9 in Latham. Arrests also are taking place in Oklahoma, Florida and New Hampshire.

Disbarred N.Y. lawyer charged with stealing clients’ money

A disbarred attorney accused of making “preposterous excuses” to defraud clients out of hundreds of thousands of dollars has been indicted for grand larceny and fraud, Manhattan prosecutors announced Tuesday. Prosecutors allege that Brian Reis, 52, stole $213,000 from settlement and retainer funds entrusted to him by clients. When the clients inquired about the money, he came up with increasingly outrageous excuses to dodge their questions, claiming on separate occasions that he had hit a moose with his car and that his car had exploded, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement. Court documents filed by the prosecution indicate that between 2007 and 2012, Reis also withdrew more than $350,000 in cash from client escrow accounts, transferred $640,000 to online gambling sites and transferred $74,000 to his wife.

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

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