Monthly Archives: December 2013

Florida Senate President Favors Constitutional Amendment to Expand Vegas-style Gambling Casinos

Last year, Casino Watch Focus reported the attempt of the Genting Group to sidestep the legislature on the issue of expanded gambling though destination casinos by placing a ballot initiative before the voters in Florida. They hoped to either put pressure on the legislature to pass a proposal that they had more control over, or get their own proposal directly in front of the voters. The ballot initiative stalled and the legislature is working to decide how to expand gambling, but the Florida Senate President is backing the idea of a constitutional amendment that requires the vote of the people as well.  The Jacksonville Business Journal explains:

Senate President Don Gaetz said Thursday voters should probably weigh in on whether the state opens the door to Las Vegas-style casinos, posing another hurdle for out-of-state operators eager to start doing business in South Florida.

Gaetz’s comments make it more likely that voters will play a role in any gaming expansion next year.

House Speaker Will Weatherford  last week told The News Service of Florida he is “warming up to” a constitutional amendment that would require statewide voter approval for any future gambling expansion. But Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, was unclear about whether any changes approved by the Legislature next year would also have to get the voters’ blessing.

Such amendments have long been viewed as attempts to force policies when legislatures wont pass them on their own.  Legislatures typically have good reasons, and solid advice, counsel and evidence for making such decisions.  But during a ballot initiative, its too easy for one group to simply outspend its opponents on flashy messaging and persuasive tactics that mislead voters.  These constitutional amendments are typically seen in a negative light and Sen. Gaetz and others said last year that they wouldn’t resort to such attempts.  The Journal continues:

Lawmakers drew fire for placing 11 proposed constitutional amendments, many of them politically charged, on the 2012 ballot.

Gaetz said he and Weatherford last year pledged not to “litter up the constitution or the ballot with a bunch of crap, a bunch of issues de jour, a bunch of political stuff.”

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

Brief Look at Crime 12/23 – 12/29

Youth murdered after dispute at gambling den    

A 21 year old youth was attacked and killed after a dispute arose at a gambling den in Kuliyapitiya last night, police media unit said. Police added the victim, a resident of Ilukhena, died after being admitted to the Kuliyapitiya base hospital. Investigations have revealed that the dispute had arisen after the victim had refused to give money to another at the gambling den. The suspect in the killing, who was injured himself, is currently being treated under police guard at the Kuliyapitiya hospital. A post-mortem examination is to be conducted today.

Miccosukees fire four tribal police officers; a fifth commits suicide

The troubled Miccosukee Indian police department has fired four officers, two years after a similar purge decimated the ranks of the West Miami-Dade law enforcement agency. The department suffered another blow Sunday when a rookie police officer, Kares Parrada, 23, shot and killed herself while off duty in her North Miami-Dade trailer home. The mother of five had not been fired but believed she might soon be terminated, according to law enforcement. The firings are another black eye for the 600-member tribe, which has been under intense public and legal scrutiny in recent years. The federal government is going after the tribe for what it says are unpaid taxes on gambling proceeds. So far, the IRS has placed $170 million in tax liens on the tribe for back taxes, interest and penalties.  The tribe is also suing its former chairman, Billy Cypress, saying he stole $26 million to spend on numerous gambling trips, shopping sprees, real estate and luxury cars.

Admitted embezzler of more than $4M is yet to face theft charges

She reportedly confessed to thefts of $109,000 from one business and $4.1 million from another. Yet, so far, Caroline K. Richardson has faced nothing more than tax evasion charges. Eight months after the case was first reported in The World-Herald, authorities say they are close to charging Richardson, 54, for her alleged crime against Colombo Candy & Tobacco of Omaha: the theft of $4.1 million. Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said that his office is wrapping up its investigation and that charges are “imminent.” Kleine said this week that he is deciding what charges to file and how many, and that he expects to do so soon. The news comes as Colombo and its owner, Monte Brown, proceed with two bold lawsuits — against Richardson’s former boss for recommending that Colombo hire Richardson, and against the casino where Richardson frittered away the money.

Sick Of Husband’s Gambling, Wife Alerts Authorities To $600K Super Bowl Pools At Local Bar

All around the country, local bars operate betting pools where patrons pay a set fee to buy a shot at taking home everyone else’s cash. At lots of bars, the price for a box is reasonable, but some pools charge thousands of dollars to check off a single box. These pools often go ignored by police and other authorities, but after the wife of a Staten Island gambler complained to the state about the large sums being wagered at a local bar, that establishment is no longer accepting bets.  According to the NY Post , a woman in Staten Island sent an anonymous letter to the NY State Liquor Authority, complaining, “My husband spends all his money on these pools and not on our children,” and asking how the SLA could allow a bar to operate what she claimed was a $1 million illegal football pool. The Authority must have been moved by her letter, as it quickly sent investigators to snap photos of the pool boards — indicating who had purchased which boxes in each pool — taped to the mirrored wall behind the bar. The total prize value of the pools wasn’t $1 million, but it was still pretty substantial. Four pools were set to pay out $50,000 each to their winners, another two were worth $100,000 each and the largest pool discovered by SLA investigators was worth $200,000. Of course, to win that prize you’d have to pay $2,000 per chance.

Woman who stole $124,000 sentenced to probation

An Illinois woman who admitted she had a gambling addiction when she embezzled $124,000 from a Quad-City staffing agency was sentenced Thursday to probation. Scott County District Judge Mark Cleve told 40-year-old Heather Quist of Carbon Cliff that if she violates her probation, she’ll face 20 years in prison. She had pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree theft. “I want to teach my children that if you own up to what you’ve done, there is some sort of forgiveness,” Quist said in court. She accused of embezzling $124,812.92 from the company account from October 2010 to December 2012. “She’s very embarrassed about what happened,” her attorney, Jean Capdevila, said. Capdevila said Quist suffers an addictive personality disorder, including a gambling addiction, as well as bipolar disorder. Quist said in court that she’s seeking therapy for her gambling addiction and hasn’t gambled in a year.

Former Bank Branch Manager in Garden City Sentenced for Embezzlement

 A former branch manager at Landmark National Bank in Garden City, Kansas, has been sentenced for embezzling more than $99,000 from the bank, United States Attorney Barry Grissom said today. Sheri L Green, 52, Garden City, Kansas, was sentenced Monday to three years’ supervised release and ordered to pay $99,060 in restitution. She pleaded guilty to one count of misapplication of bank funds by a bank employee. In her plea, she admitted that in December 2012, while she was employed as branch manager for Landmark National Bank in Garden City, the bank discovered she had embezzled approximately $99,600 from the bank to cover her gambling losses. She took the money by shifting money between customer accounts. Several customers had noticed irregular entries in their bank statements and complained to Green. She corrected the withdrawals by shifting money from other accounts to the complaining customer’s accounts to cover her tracks. Grissom commended the FBI and Assistant United States Attorney Barry Grissom for their work on the case.

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

Brief Look at Crime 12/16 – 12/22

2 plead guilty to killing S. Cal casino winner

A man and woman have pleaded guilty to killing a gambler they followed after he won $10,000 at a Southern California casino. Orange County prosecutors say Tad Carroll pleaded Friday to first-degree murder. Barbara Ann Hamel pleaded to second-degree murder. Authorities say the pair planned to rob winners at the Hawaiian Gardens Casino in September of 2010. Prosecutors said they followed 55-year-old Chi Bui and confronted him when he stopped his car to drop off a friend at her Santa Ana home. Authorities say Carroll knocked down Bui and Hamel drove over his head, killing him instantly. A third defendant, Michael Ross of Long Beach, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in September. He was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

Former poker game hostess pleads guilty in NY

NEW YORK — A former high-stakes poker game hostess pleaded guilty on Thursday to charges she helped run underground games for Wall Street financiers and celebrities in guest rooms at The Plaza hotel. Molly Bloom was among more than 30 people charged earlier this year in a sprawling scheme by two related Russian-American organized crime enterprises, authorities said. In recent years the operations laundered at least $100 million in proceeds from an illegal sports betting operation that catered largely to superrich Russians, prosecutors said. U.S. authorities following a trans-Atlantic money trail uncovered the poker games in New York. They said the players included professional athletes, Hollywood luminaries and business executives, some of whom ran up debts in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but they gave no names. Bloom told a judge in federal court in Manhattan that she and others running the games at The Plaza, a luxurious landmark on the southern edge of Central Park, collected a cut of the pot, a fee known as a rake. Playing poker is legal, but organizing games for profit is against state law.

PA Suspect Charged With Embezzling From Credit Union, Bank

The former manager of a credit union and a bank accused of embezzling more than $250,000 is facing criminal charges in two Pennsylvania courtrooms – in two separate cases. Tiffany Kay Look, 39, is accused of stealing more than $135,000 from the $2.5 billion Members 1st FCU  in Mechanicsburg, Penn., earlier this year and $115,000 from Mid Penn Bank in 2010, according to court documents. Look is accused of taking out fraudulent loans and stealing from accounts, including from a dead woman’s estate. She joins a growing list of credit union managers accused of dipping into credit union coffers for personal expenses. Look, who was manager at Members 1st FCU’s branch on Market Street in Camp Hill, Penn., waived a preliminary hearing Dec. 11 in Cumberland County Court on the credit union case. Although she initially denied taking out the loans, Look later confessed to police that some of the missing funds were spent at casinos, said court documents.

Man dies from injuries sustained during fight in Laughlin

A man who was struck several times in the face during a fight in Laughlin died Sunday from his injuries, Las Vegas police said. Police responded Wednesday afternoon to the 1900 block of South Casino Drive, near the Aquarius Casino Resort, and found an unconscious man bleeding from his face. An investigation determined the victim, 59-year-old Joseph Chernowsky, and the suspect, 54-year-old Michael Dean Dymond, knew each other before the fight began, according to police reports. Chernowsky was transported to University Medical Center in Las Vegas in critical condition where he died. Police arrested Dymond on Thursday and booked him into the Clark County Detention Center on felony battery charges.

Real Estate agent steals millions and feeds them into poker machines

A Warilla real estate agent has confessed to fleecing cash from her company’s trust funds to subsidise a multimillion-dollar gambling habit. Megan Harrod admitted to stealing from her company Harrods Real Estate between 2010 and 2012, pouring the cash into poker machines at Wests Illawarra and the Shellharbour Club. NSW Fair Trading alleges the total amount taken was more than $1.5 million, however Harrod’s lawyer yesterday indicated she disputed that amount. Records from both clubs, obtained by Fair Trading, revealed Harrod gambled $10.1 million on poker machines over about a seven-year period, including the years she was swindling from the company. The records show Harrod won a combined $9.1 million during the same period. Her fraudulent run was eventually halted by her father, Jim Harrod, who reported his daughter’s crimes to Fair Trading in early 2012. The family has since repaid almost two-thirds of the outstanding money.

Man Steals $2.5 Million For Fake Walmart, Gambles it Away at Casino

Federal investigators say Ronald Roberts, 53, stole millions of dollars pretending to buy real estate for a future Walmart store and instead gambled the money away at a south county casino. The FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are investigating the Town & Country man for three felony counts of wire fraud and one felony count of mail fraud. Roberts turned himself in Tuesday after a federal grand jury indicted him December 11. Roberts stole $2.5 million from lenders by pretending he was buying land he would later sell to Walmart, says the U.S. attorney’s office. He told victims he’d earn between $7 million and $22 million once the land became the site for Poplar Bluff’s second Walmart, but instead he used the money for gambling at River City Casino. Roberts’ real estate transactions were made up, and the property he was pretending to buy is worth substantially less than he told lenders. There is no news of a second Walmart coming to Poplar Bluff.

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

NJ Sports Betting Law seeks Supreme Court Audience to Expand Gambling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on New Jersey’s many failed attempts at legalizing sports betting on the same scale as allowed in Las Vegas.  NJ Gov. Chris Cristie, and his desire to expand sports gambling in his state, is opposed by the NCAA, NFL, MLB, NHL and the Federal Government.  Earlier this year a federal court upheld an earlier ruling that nullified the gambling expansion, but now Gov. Christ is attempting to get the issue heard by the Supreme Court.  The Star-Ledger explains why the odds are extremely slim the case will actually be heard:

After losing three times in federal court to the NCAA and the nation’s professional sports leagues, Gov. Chris Christie will now try his luck at the U.S. Supreme Court.  But persuading the justices to allow New Jersey to take its swings for sports betting is no easy task. About 10,000 petitions are filed with the Supreme Court each year, yet the justices hear arguments in just 100 or so.

“No more than about 5 percent … are granted,” said Jeremy D. Frey, a gaming industry lawyer who has watched the case. “There is little reason to think that (this case) will be one of them. The state’s central constitutional claim was always akin to a ‘Hail Mary’ football pass.”

I. Nelson Rose, a professor at Whittier Law School in Southern California who writes about gambling on his blog,, said he had thought New Jersey was going to win its case, but now doubts it can. “Having been turned down by the 3rd Circuit, the chances of the Supreme Court hearing it are very small,” Rose said.

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

Brief Look at Crime 12/09 – 12/15

Computer hacker stole virtual property from online fantasy gamers to pay off REAL gambling debts

A computer hacker has been spared jail after selling virtual items he had stolen breaking into the accounts of fantasy game players. Steven Burrell, from Northampton, spent 16 months hacking profiles on RuneScape, an online game where more than 200 million players live in a medieval fantasy world and collect armour and food. The 21-year-old accessed accounts almost 4,000 times, using the money he made to pay off his gambling debts, Northampton Magistrates’ Court was told. Northampton Magistrates’ Court heard Burrell sold his victims’ virtual items on auction sites and forums to raise up to £3,000. Many of his victims complained to the game’s developer, Jagex – taking up 1,000 hours of the company’s time.  Yet Burrell was charged with hacking, not theft, because the items he stole existed in a fantasy world. He added: ‘He is a normal, rational human being, whose course of conduct has clearly caused a lot of trouble. ‘He used a fantasy world to try to deal with problems in the real world, which were financial and related to gambling.

Man who staged own kidnapping nabbed

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 8, 2013): A 28-year-old jobless man who cleaned out his mother’s life savings, staged his own kidnapping and demanded money from her for his release, was nabbed by police. The man, who is believed to have a gambling addiction had telephoned his mother in Taman Desa Jaya, Kepong on Thursday and claimed he was abducted by four men. He told his mother that he was confined at an unknown location and that his abductors wanted RM25,000 for his release. As she did not have the money needed for her son’s release, she alerted the police. On Friday, after gathering information, the police tracked down the man to a casino in Genting Highlands. “He was having a jolly good time gambling at a casino there when we arrested him. Further investigations revealed that his mother gave him thousands of ringgit from her savings after he told her he wanted to start a business but he used it up for gambling,” Gombak police chief ACP Abdul Rahim Abdullah told theSun today. He said the suspect also led police to a hotel room at the resort where they detained his 37-year-old male friend who had allegedly aided him in pulling off the ruse.

Florida Man Pleads Guilty To Role In Stamford Gambling Ring

A Florida man has pleaded guilty to money laundering and operating an illegal gambling business in connection with a large-scale, Internet-based sports bookmaking operation based in Stamford.  Craig Caffro, 48, pleaded guilty Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas P. Smith in Hartford, Acting U.S. Attorney for Connecticut Deirdre M. Daly announced. As part of his guilty plea, Caffro has agreed to forfeit $50,000. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison when he is sentenced on Feb. 26.  According to court documents and statements made in court, Caffro and 19 others were charged with various offenses related to their involvement in multiple illegal gambling businesses in southern Connecticut controlled by the Gambino organized crime family, including the Stamford operation.The investigation, which included the use of court-authorized wiretaps, revealed that Dean DePreta led the operation in which gamblers placed bets with offshore sports-gambling websites. Caffro served as the point person for the website and received regular payments from DePreta and co-defendant Richard Uva, both of Stamford, for its use. At Caffro’s direction, one of these payments was laundered through the bank account of the elderly mother of one of his associates living in New Jersey. FBI analysis determined that the total gross revenue of the Stamford-based gambling operation were nearly $1.7 million from October 2010 to June 2011. As of this date, 19 defendants have agreed to forfeit $1.5 million in illegal proceeds.

Govt enabling money laundering in SkyCity Casino

Today’s revelations that SkyCity Casino is caught up in an alleged international crime syndicate comes as no surprise given the Government’s inaction over money laundering in casinos, the Green Party said today. “Casinos are an engine of crime, so it’s not surprising that another money laundering ring has been exposed at SkyCity Casino,” said Green Party gambling spokesperson Denise Roche. “It is the latest in a growing body of evidence that SkyCity profits from the proceeds of crime. When money is laundered through their casino, SkyCity profits from the business and they should have to give it back. “The National Government’s cosy deal with SkyCity is enabling this to happen by making money laundering that much easier. We’re going to see a lot more of this happening.” Included in the list of gambling concessions gifted to SkyCity Casino in their agreement with the Government to build a convention centre is an increase in ‘ticket-in, ticket-out technology’ and machines that can accept denominations of $20 and higher. Both of these concessions are linked to increased problem gambling and money laundering. “Ticket-in, ticket-out technology is one of the best ways to increase money laundering. It enables anonymous gambling, which makes problem gambling easier and is directly linked to money laundering overseas,” said Ms Roche.

Father and son in Penn Hills arrested again in theft by deception

A father and son duo in Penn Hills stole $580,000 from a Texas-based customer after failing to deliver promised electronics while pocketing the advance payment, court records show. Joseph Kocott Sr., 44, and Joseph Kocott Jr., 25, both of Penn Hills agreed to provide thousands of television converter boxes to MP Instruments Inc. for $580,000, according to criminal complaints filed by Jackelyn Weibel of the Allegheny County district attorney’s office detectives. When the March 5, 2010, delivery date was missed, MP Instruments Inc. vice president Joey Pate demanded a refund, Ms. Weibel wrote. A search of the account to which the money had been wired, which was owned by Mr. Kocott Jr., showed the sum had been transferred into an account owned by Mr. Kocott, Sr. and written out in checks payable to cash. After a series of checks were written, $3 of the payment remained in Mr. Kocott Jr.’s account. The father and son were each charged Friday with felony counts of theft by deception, receiving stolen property and conspiracy and were released on their own recognizance. A preliminary hearing is set for Dec. 30. In August, they surrendered on charges that they stole more than $100,000 from a local company to support the father’s gambling habit.

Savannah casino boat investigation uncovers $1 million in illegal gambling

A joint-investigation of a Savannah River casino boat uncovered more than $1 million in illegal proceeds, authorities reported. The investigation, which involved federal and local law enforcement agencies, targeted gambling aboard the Diamond Casino Cruise. Three men were indicted by a federal grand jury and reportedly pleaded guilty to prohibition of illegal gambling businesses. In June, Gregory Sicilia was sentenced to five years probation, six months home confinement with electronic monitoring, 40 hours of community service and a $100 special assessment. Following a tip from the Coast Guard, investigators found the casino boat had violated gambling laws, which require such vessels to conduct gambling at least 12 miles from shore in international waters. The Diamond Casino Cruise had allegedly operated slot machines and table games just off shore and sometimes while barely away from the dock, according to the ICE Homeland Security Investigations. Brock Nicholson, special agent in charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Georgia and the Carolinas, said operators of the casino boat “flaunted” their enterprise.

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

The Florida Panthers Hockey Team Linked to a Destination Casino?

Casino Watch Focus has been long reporting on the battle to expand gambling in Florida to that of full-scale, Las Vegas destination casinos.  Genting group has been the most active over the past few years in attempting to set the stage for destination gambling. Those efforts have been fought off by various groups looking to prevent the expansion of gambling in hopes of keeping Florida a family-friendly destination.  A new group has presented a proposal to the Senate Committee on Gambling that attempts to link a casino with one of Florida’s pro hockey teams. The Tampa Bay Times explains:

The Florida Panthers hockey team could be the first major sports team linked to a destination casino if legislators permit an expansion of gambling, proponents said Monday after a meeting of the Senate Committee on Gaming.

Sunrise Sports & Entertainment is partnering with Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming Corporation on its proposal for a hotel, spa and casino with 50,000 square feet for meeting space on the land adjacent to the BB & T Center in the city of Sunrise. Broward County owns the land.

The BB & T Center, which hosts concerts and special events as well as hockey games, is across the road from Sawgrass Mills, considered Florida’s second-largest tourist destination with more than 350 outlet stores, and near the Sawgrass Expressway and other roads, factors that make it a prime location for the casino/hotel resort, said Michael Yormark, president and CEO of Sunrise Sports & Entertainment and the Florida Panthers NHL hockey team.    

The Senate Committee will meet again on January 13th and its still unsure if the issue will be decided in the legislature.  The Tampa Bay times continues:

Asked about the odds of passing comprehensive gambling legislation this year, Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, chairman of the Senate Committee on Gaming, said the chances are “50-50.”

“We have to find out what it is we want to do, what it is we believe is in the best interest of the state of Florida before we can go any further,” he said. “That’s what the next step is. We’re preparing to cross the starting line.”

He said there were numerous issues from dog racing to destination casino resorts to the possibility of a gaming commission. “If you take all the pieces of the puzzle, they don’t snap together that easily.” Richter said he couldn’t comment on Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford’s call for a state constitutional amendment to allow voters to decide future changes to gaming in the state.

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

Brief Look at Crime 12/02 – 12/08

Man Held for Killing Mother

The HAL police have cracked the murder of a 55-year-old woman by arresting her son and an accomplice. The accused are Lakshmana alias Lakshmana Reddy (34), a daily wage worker, and his friend Subramani (30), a driver. They hail from Chittor district in Andhra Pradesh and were living in Mulbagal, near Kolar. Reddy killed his mother Muniyamma alias Reddamma, a domestic help, near her house at Doddanekundi Lake on November 25. Police say Lakshmana Reddy had lost money in gambling. He had also bought a two-wheeler but had no money to pay the instalments. On November 25, when Lakshmana Reddy went to his mother’s house, her husband Malla Reddy, a security guard, was away at work. Lakshmana Reddy demanded money to pay his bike dues. Reddamma, who suspected he would use the cash for gambling, refused. Later in the evening, he sat drinking with his friend Subramani and allegedly hatched a plot to murder her.

Charges filed in Brioni Rutland-related shooting, police probe gambling allegations

Police have charged a man with attempted murder for the shooting of murdered Deshler coach Brioni Rutland’s cousin, as they investigate allegations that Rutland was involved with gambling. Gregory Williams is being held in the Colbert County Jail on a $500,000 bond. Eyewitnesses to the shooting told police Williams said he was tired of being accused of involvement in Rutland’s death and got into a fist fight with Rutland’s cousin, Lonell Hankins. Witnesses said the fight escalated and Williams shot Hankins four times. Police expect Hankins to recover from his injuries. The shooting took place early Tuesday morning outside Rutland’s father’s house on Gail Street in Tuscumbia. Williams was arrested about 45 minutes after the shooting. Williams’ cousin, Jeremy Leshun Williams, is in the Lauderdale County Detention Center charged with Rutland’s murder. The body of Rutland, a volunteer coach at Deshler High School, was found wrapped in chains and attached to concrete blocks in the Tennessee River Saturday. A preliminary autopsy report indicates Rutland was stabbed more than 30 times and shot in the head.  According to the arrest warrant, Jeremy Williams told police Rutland showed up at his apartment in Florence Nov. 26 to collect a gambling debt.

Poker Pro Escapes Two Robbery Attempts Just Minutes Apart

New York City police were investigating two attempted robberies of a poker pro who was in possession of $100,000 in cash while attempting to fly out of New York’s JFK Airport. According to the New York Post, Eric Riley, 32, had won the money playing at Atlantic City’s Borgata Casino.  While there he met up with an individual who offered him a ride to the airport over 100 miles away.  Riley accepted but once at JFK, the driver attempted to flee before the poker pro could retrieve his duffle bag full of cash out of the car’s trunk. Fortunately for Riley, the trunk of that vehicle was left open.  Hoping into the first available cab, Riley chased after his supposed “new friend” and managed to pull the duffle bag from the open car trunk. While it seems almost incomprehensible, two men claiming to be undercover police officers offered Riley a ride back to the airport.  Once inside the vehicle, one of the men held a gun to Riley’s chest and demanded the money. The poker pro then “clutched the bag to his chest and made a daring leap from the moving car. He rolled down the highway, getting road rash as his clothes were torn to ribbons”.

Former worker accused of embezzling $1 million

A former payroll specialist at Wheaton Franciscan Services has been charged with four felonies in which she is accused of embezzling more than $1 million to support a gambling habit, according to a criminal complaint.  The complaint, released Monday, charges Janice M. Nieman, 49, with three counts of theft over $10,000 an d one count of identity theft for a scheme that dates back to 2004. She admitted to the theft and told Glendale police she used much of the money to play the slots at Potawatomi Bingo Casino, the complaint says.  If convicted, she faces a maximum penalty of 36 years in prison and possible fines up to $85,000. Nieman, of Milwaukee, started gambling before she took the position at Wheaton 15 years ago, the complaint says. She started playing the slots to deal with the stress when she lost her previous job.  From 2004 through June of this year, Nieman made more than 2,000 fraudulent transactions through the health care organization’s payroll system, using the identities of 848 different employees, the complaint says.

Former Washington Democratic official sentenced

The former executive director of a state Senate Democratic campaign committee was given a two-year sentence Tuesday for embezzling as much as $330,000 in campaign contributions. Much of the money was spent at casinos. Michael King was ordered to spend half his sentence in prison, where he must undergo alcohol and gambling addiction treatment, The Seattle Times reported. The other half will be spent in community custody, the state’s version of parole. If he violates his release conditions, he will be sent to prison to serve the full term. He must also pay $250,000 restitution. The 32-year-old pleaded guilty in October to multiple theft counts. King County prosecutors say he was able to swindle the campaign fund by requesting reimbursement for faked expenses. Charging papers indicate King began embezzling on March 28, 2011, weeks after he was hired as executive director of the statewide organization that was established to help Democratic incumbents and candidates win election to the state Senate. The thefts weren’t uncovered until after the November 2012 election when King sought to be reimbursed for thousands of dollars he said had been paid to online polling and auto-dialing companies, court documents said.

NJ man convicted of running pizzeria scam

A New Jersey man accused of bilking an investor out of roughly $1.2 million in a phony pizzeria scheme has been convicted on numerous counts, including mail fraud and money laundering. Giovanni Arena of Laurel Springs now faces several decades in prison when he’s sentenced March 14. He was found guilty Wednesday by a federal jury that deliberated for less than four hours following a seven-day trial in Camden. Federal prosecutors say the 58-year-old Arena had operated pizzerias in the past, and he enticed the victim to send money to invest in the purchase of a pizza shop. But Arena instead spent the cash on luxury automobiles and gambled away hundreds of thousands of dollars at Atlantic City casinos. Arena was convicted on 27 of the 34 counts he faced.

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

Brief Look at Crime 11/25 – 12/01

Elderly woman killed in shootout over illegal gambling profits

Anderson County deputies said they believe an elderly woman killed during an armed robbery and shootout was targeted because of the amount of cash she had from her involvement in a gambling business. Deputies said after speaking with Dorothy Hendrix’s family, they learned she returned to her Rayben Lane home often early in the morning with large sums of money after leaving her job. On Saturday, deputies said Hendrix, 76, came home to find three armed men at her house. The coroner said Hendrix pulled out a gun and fired at the suspects, and one of them returned fire, hitting her twice.  Deputies said Hendrix worked at 3454 Cinema Center in Anderson and after searching the location Tuesday, they found 15 illegal gambling machines. Investigators believe Hendrix was robbed because she had proceeds from gambling at the center, where she was involved in day-to-day operations, according to deputies.

Lake Elsinore Man Admits to Embezzling From Santa Ana Church

A Lake Elsinore man pleaded guilty today to embezzling more that $100,000 from a Santa Ana church where he worked as a treasurer and was immediately sentenced to a year in jail and ordered to pay back what he stole in restitution. Fiatala Manu, 47, worked as an interim treasurer at First Samoan Christian Congregational Church from October 2011 through August of last year, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. Manu embezzled about $113,000, including $96,000 set aside for the construction of a new church, according to prosecutors. He also laundered embezzled funds he had deposited into his personal bank account by withdrawing cash and making purchases at an Indian gaming casino, prosecutors said. Manu covered his tracks with falsified financial reports, but an assistant treasurer assigned to monitor various church accounts uncovered the thievery in July 2012.

Supervisor at Visalia bank arrested on embezzlement charge

A bank supervisor has been arrested on suspicion of embezzling $300,000 from her employer, Visalia police said Monday. Police arrested Kathleen Welte, 54, of Tulare, an employee of Well Fargo Bank, following a 13-month investigation. The alleged embezzlement took place at the Wells Fargo branch in downtown Visalia. Some of the money was used for gambling, Sgt. Ozzie Dominguez said. The investigation began Oct. 24, 2012 when bank management called police. A detective went to investigate, and Welte was terminated or resigned the same day, police said. The Tulare County District Attorney’s Office accepted the case and obtained an arrest warrant. Welte was arrested Saturday and booked into the Bob Wiley Detention Center.

Financial adviser stole £1m to fund gambling habit

A respected financial adviser stole almost £1m from friends, a charity and investors in a high-risk international money-making scheme – using the cash to fund his spiralling gambling addiction. Michael Garner frittered away astronomical amounts on an online casino – placing bets totalling an astonishing £1.5m but only winning back around £750,000. To feed his gambling habits, he began stealing from the Cheadle and Gatley Round Table charitable organisation, where he was the trusted treasurer and later president. Anna Mackenzie, defending, told the court Garner was remorseful and understood his actions had ‘devastated’ the lives of himself, family,  friends and victims. She added his marriage appeared to be over and his matrimonial home, his only asset, had been sold to help pay off a civil claim made by the investors against him.

Prison Sentence In Theft Case For Former Hose Company Head

A volunteer firefighter, businessman, and former council member in Moosic was sent to jail Tuesday morning. Bill Sweeney was sentenced to nearly a year behind bars for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the fire department he worked for. When Bill Sweeney was arrested back in April he was a volunteer firefighter, a Moosic Borough councilman, and a businessman. Now, he’s lost all but one of those titles. At sentencing, Sweeney said he hopes he can keep his business, Bitty Bill’s in Moosic, so he can pay back the money he admits he stole to feed a gambling addiction. Sweeney pleaded guilty earlier this year and admitted to stealing almost $400,000 from the Greenwood Hose Company in Moosic while he was a member there.

Bank manager pleads guilty to aiding NY online gambling ringleader

A former branch manager at a Manhattan bank has become the nineteenth defendant to plead guilty for his involvement in a high stakes illegal online sports betting business connected to organized crime enterprises in New York. Ronald Uy plead guilty on Monday before US District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan federal court to assisting Illya Trincher, a leader of the international sportsbook with ties to Russian-American organized crime, with structuring financial transactions.  Trincher pled guilty earlier this month in connection with his leadership role in the operation of a high-stakes illegal sports gambling business. Uy was charged in April 2013 along with 33 other alleged members and associates of two Russian-American organized crime enterprises in an indictment that included racketeering, money laundering, extortion, and various gambling offenses. Preet Bharara, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said: “Ronald Uy consorted with Illya Trincher, a leader of a high-stakes gambling operation with ties to Russian-American organized crime, and broke the law when he aided Trincher in concealing the enterprise’s ill-gotten gains.  “But thanks to the efforts of law enforcement, Uy, like the 18 others before him, has admitted his guilt and now stands convicted.”

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