Calling it perhaps the biggest money laundering scheme in U.S. history, federal prosecutors charged seven people Tuesday with running what amounted to an online, underworld bank that handled $6 billion for drug dealers, child pornographers, identity thieves and other criminals around the globe. The case was aimed at Liberty Reserve, a currency transfer and payment processing company based in Costa Rica that authorities say allowed customers to move money anonymously from one account to another via the Internet with almost no questions asked. U.S. officials said the enterprise was staggering in scope: Over roughly seven years, Liberty Reserve processed 55 million illicit transactions worldwide for 1 million users, including 200,000 in the U.S. As part of the Liberty Reserve investigation, authorities raided 14 places in Panama, Switzerland, the U.S., Sweden and Costa Rica. In Costa Rica, all online businesses are legal and there aren’t any laws regulating them, so the country has been attracting entrepreneurs setting up Internet-based companies that do everything from e-commerce to gambling banned in other countries.
A Newport woman stole more than $5 million from her employer over five years, spending the money on travel, merchandise from the Internet and gambling sites, authorities said. Susan Garcia, 42, was arrested Friday after she was indicted by a grand jury on eight felony charges of obtaining property by false pretense, District Attorney Scott E. Thomas said. Each count faces a maximum of eight years in prison if convicted. Garcia worked for Big Rock Sports, LLC, and one of her duties was to track the use of company credit cards. Garcia used several of those credit cards to make the purchases and gamble, then falsified accounting records to cover the spending up, authorities said. Garcia bought items from Internet retailers, paid for trips for herself and gambled online with the money she stole, investigators said.
A Richland County jury has convicted a Columbia man accused of killing his wife and business partner. The jury deliberated for three hours Tuesday before returning a guilty verdict in the trial of Brett Parker. Prosecutors say Parker killed his wife, Tammy, in April 2012 and tried to frame it on business partner Bryan Capnerhurst. The two men were said to have been involved in an illegal gambling ring. Parker testified last week that Capnerhurst came into his home and killed his wife, then demanded money from Parker’s safe. Parker says he got a gun from on top of the safe and killed Capnerhurst. In closing arguments, prosecutors painted Brett Parker as a cold-blooded killer who bet that police wouldn’t be able to unravel the crime scene he staged. “He bet wrong,” prosecutor Luck Campbell said.
A bipolar accountant who stole almost $1 million from his employer over a three-year period has been locked up to await sentence. Chief Justice Terence Higgins revoked Adi Narayan’s bail at a sentencing hearing in the ACT Supreme Court on Wednesday. Narayan, of Forde, has pleaded guilty to five charges relating to 106 different occasions he illegally transferred money into accounts controlled by him or his friends. The court heard Narayan used his position as financial controller of construction company GE Shaw to siphon off $987,000 from November 2008 to February last year. The Crown said the other recipients would pay Narayan half the money in cash and he would then spend the ill-gotten gains on gambling and alcohol.
Jacksonville lawyer Kelly Mathis will likely go on trial within the next three months on charges of being the mastermind behind a veterans charity that prosecutors say was actually a $300 million gambling operation. But Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester told attorneys for co-defendants Nelson Cuba, 48, Robbie Freitas, 47, and Jerry Bass, 63, that the earliest he will even think about them is September. All face charges of money laundering and racketeering. “You should all enjoy your summers,” Lester said during a hearing Thursday. Mathis and six other defendants have not waived their right to a speedy trial. Under the law, those who haven’t waived their speedy trial rights must get a trial within six months of being charged. That means Mathis, 49, will have a trial by September.
A Las Vegas woman accused of embezzling $3.4 million from the clients at her payroll company and using the money for gambling has pleaded guilty to tax evasion and wire fraud. Internal Revenue Service officials say 55-year-old Deborah DiFrancesco entered the plea this week to one count of tax evasion and three counts of wire fraud. Authorities say she told her clients that their money had been forwarded to the proper agencies, including the IRS. But the IRS says she actually prepared a second set of forms that understated the tax obligations of her clients, and she pocketed the difference.
A Baylor University economist warned House lawmakers that legalizing a casino in New Hampshire will increase both crime and the influence of the powerful gambling lobby. Earl Grinols told a House subcommittee studying the community impact of legalizing a casino in the state that there is no way to reverse a decision to legalize casino gambling. “Once you introduce it into New Hampshire, you’re done,” he said via Skype. “You’re not going to ever reverse it and it will be a continual presence for expanded gambling. “In New Hampshire it will become the largest lobbying presence in your state. The gambling industry will become the biggest lobbying presence very quickly.” Grinols said that although he has been accused of working on behalf of anti-gambling interests, he has no agenda and has not ever been paid by any group.
He said he conducted what he views as objective research to counter what he views as slanted research put forward by the gambling industry. “I have no moral objection to gambling,” said Grinols. “If an individual likes to gamble and plans how much he can lose, fine. “But I think it does cause social consequences that are paid for by people who don’t gamble, and these numbers are quite significant.” Grinols said research shows that gambling brings to a community increases in crime, serious industry serious accidents, job loss, sickness, welfare recipients, divorce and bankruptcy. He said each problem gambler costs a society $3,700 annually, while a pathological gambler can cost a society $13,000-a-year. “Out of every 100 people, it’s likely you’ll create one pathological gambler and one to two problem gamblers,” Grinols said. “In a group of 100, the group will have to come up with about $20,000 in social costs. “There is,” he said, “a connection between gambling and crime.”
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