Brief Look at Crime 09/23 – 09/29

Gambling debts sparked fatal 2012 kidnapping for ransom

Yandamuri, 27, who at that time lived in the Marquis Apartments in Upper Merion, readily agreed to accompany detectives back to the Upper Merion police station but not without first cashing in his chips. The location of that episode may have been the harbinger of what prosecutors now believe was the main motive behind a kidnapping for ransom scam that went fatally awry. Prosecutors, in a motion filed this week in Montgomery County Court, claim that Yandamuri’s “past and recent history of significant gambling debts represent one motive for his scheme to kidnap for ransom 10-month-old Saanvi Venna, a scheme that ultimately resulted” in the murders of Saanvi and her grandmother, Satyavathi Venna. The motion is seeking court permission to introduce Yandamuri’s gambling problems at his murder trial. Yandamuri, who has been held without bail in the county prison since his Oct. 26 arrest, is charged with first- and second-degree murder, kidnapping and related offenses for the suffocation death of Saanvi and the stabbing death of her grandmother. The prosecution has said it will seek the death penalty for Yandamuri if he is convicted of first-degree murder.

Gambling addiction linked to 128 suicides in Victoria

Gambling addiction was a contributing factor in nearly 130 suicides in Victoria over the past decade, according to figures released by the Victorian coroner. The report identified 128 gambling-related suicides between January 2000 and December 2012. Almost all – 126 – were of people with a gambling addiction, while two were of people who were adversely affected by a partner’s problem gambling. Men accounted for 84% of the suicide toll, with the figure peaking for those aged between 30 and 39. While the coroner could not identify the type of gambling engaged in by 105 of the people who took their lives, of the remaining 23 deaths, 19 were linked to poker machine addiction. Two deaths were linked to TAB gambling, one to online gambling and one to roulette wheels. In addition to the suicides, the coroner reported two murders linked to problem gambling, in which someone with a gambling addiction killed their partner before committing suicide.

State Alleges Executive Director Stole $200,000 From Community Group

The state has filed a lawsuit against the former executive director of a disbanded North End community group, charging she stole more than $200,000 in charitable donations and spent most of it gambling at the state’s casinos. Karen O. Lewis , a Windsor resident, served as executive director of SAND—the South Arsenal Neighborhood Development Corp.–from at least January 1, 2000 to December 31, 2009. State Attorney General George Jepsen, in conjunction with state Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubinstein, is seeking to recoup the funds. Jepsen has also referred the matter to the chief state’s attorney’s office, which has the authority to file criminal charges. Jepsen said the case is part of a renewed focus by his office to crack down on thefts from charities and non-profits. “We take this stuff very seriously,” he said. The office has recently increased the number of lawyers dedicated to such cases from two to three. The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction against Lewis, barring her from holding “any office, directorship or position of employment or any other association with a charitable organization in Connecticut where she will have control of the funds of the organization or authorization over the disbursement of funds.” The lawsuit also seeks forfeiture of all ill-gotten gains and civil penalties.

Former Blaine bank teller repays $150,000 stolen from elderly woman

BELLINGHAM – A former gambling addict has paid back $150,000 she swindled from a blind elderly widow in Whatcom County. The money will go to the victim’s family because Maude Krenz, who was born in Sedro-Woolley in 1922, died this year at the age of 91. Lorraine Kay Sterk, 56, of Custer, faces a month in behind bars and a month of community service for draining Krenz’s five-figure CD and several other bank accounts. Sterk served as Krenz’s go-to bank teller at a Horizon Bank branch in Blaine for many years. Toward the end of her life, Krenz’s eyesight faded. She was legally blind. So Sterk, a friend of the family, got power of attorney from close relatives to take care of her money, according to records filed in Whatcom County Superior Court. But by the summer of 2011, unbeknownst to anyone but Sterk, those finances were in tatters. She had transferred up to $16,000 a month into her own account over the course of two years. Most, or all, of the stolen money she spent at casinos. Civil court records show Maude Krenz left behind only $44.60 in an account that started with close to $182,000.

Prosecutors say Ponzi scheme run by W. Roxbury family pilfered more than $10 million

A grand jury handed up new indictments Wednesday in the scheme that increased the amount allegedly stolen by Steven and Lori Palladino, who had been previously charged, and added their son, Gregory Palladino, to the case, prosecutors said. “This is among the largest investment scams we’ve seen since Charles Ponzi’s scheme right here in Boston almost 100 years ago,” Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said in a statement. “The losses here are staggering, and many of the victims are ordinary men and women who have seen their assets disappear overnight.” The money was often allegedly transferred from the company’s account into personal accounts of the Palladinos. The money was then spent on items such as luxury vehicles, a vacation in the Bahamas, rent for Steven Palladino’s mistress, and payments to casinos to cover apparent gambling losses, prosecutors alleged.

Glidden woman faces charges for embezzling

A Glidden, Wis., woman was charged with one count mail fraud, one count of wire fraud, and five counts of filing false income tax returns in federal court in Wisconsin. According to the allegations in the indictment: Hall worked at Lakewoods from Nov. 1, 1998, to Jan. 13, 2012, as chief financial officer. Beginning in January 2006, Hall embezzled funds from the homeowners’ associations and PNE bank accounts by presenting checks for signature with incorrect invoices, altered the payee line on checks after signed and procured an unauthorized signature stamp in the name of one of the corporate managers and used it to sign checks she prepared payable to herself.  Hall is accused of using the embezzled funds for her own personal purposes, which included funding gambling activity and vacation trips to Mexico and the Caribbean. It is believed Hall embezzled more than $702,000 between 2006 and 2012.

‘Psychic’ blew money at casinos, on fancy cars and waterfront home

Prosecutors say Rose Marks ripped off $25 million from her clients, then blew the money on slot machines, a waterfront home in Fort Lauderdale and exotic cars for her family — while cheating the IRS on her income taxes. Federal prosecutors finished presenting their case against Marks on Thursday after spending the last few days calling witnesses they hope will convince the jury that Marks controlled the purse strings and was the ringleader of her family’s psychic fraud conspiracy. Whatever the jury decides, some of the figures and statistics tossed around in court were staggering. Marks, who has not yet decided if she will testify in her defense, told the Sun Sentinel on Thursday that she had a gambling problem. She said it got out of control when her 7-year-old grandson and her husband died within a few years of each other in the early to mid-2000s. Marks underreported her income by millions of dollars over the years, prosecutors said.

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

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