Brief Look at Crime 01/27 – 02/02

Ex-firefighter pleads guilty to illegal gambling

A retired Los Angeles County firefighter has pleaded guilty to a federal charge of running an illegal sports gambling business that authorities say netted him hundreds of thousands of dollars and brought some bettors to financial ruin. Retired fire Capt. Tod Hipsher entered the plea in federal court in Santa Ana on Monday. He is set to be sentenced on June 2. Hipsher declined to comment. Homeland security officials say Hipsher recruited gamblers and collected debts over 12 years for an online Costa Rica-based sportsbook that waged on events ranging from college basketball games to the Superbowl. Authorities say they searched Hipsher’s Irvine home in March and seized $200,000 in cash. He retired from the fire department at the end of 2013.

Asian Women run drugs from the Golden Triangle to pay gambling debts  

CRIMINAL syndicates are ­targeting gambling-addicted Asian women at Crown casino and forcing them to act as drug mules on heroin runs from the Golden Triangle.  The County Court has recently dealt with a spate of middle-aged Asian women targeted by loan sharks at the casino and forced to run drugs to repay the debts. Last week, Judge Duncan Allen said he had “lost count” of the number of women with gambling addictions he had sentenced in the past two years for drug importation crimes. Each woman had been targeted by loan sharks at gambling venues, including the casino, then strong-armed into importing drugs. “During the last two years I’ve sentenced a large number of women … who worked as couriers in order to service gambling debts,” Judge Allen said. “A solution was provided by the criminal groups to act as a courier.” A star witness in a recent trial told authorities drug rings were deliberately targeting women with poor English at the casino to recruit them.

Shooting Erupts Amid Gambling, Drinking

ATHENS — Two men shot Sunday night while gambling and drinking were treated at area hospitals and are expected to recover, an official said.  The alleged shooter has been charged with felony assault, records show. Athens Police believe a disagreement or fight led Travis Freeman, 38, of 315 Vine St., to grab a single-shot 12-gauge shotgun and fire it once, striking both men — one in the right calf and one in the side-to-buttock area, Chief Floyd Johnson said. The man shot in the calf was transferred by ambulance from Athens-Limestone Hospital to Huntsville Hospital, the chief said. The other man was treated at Athens-Limestone Hospital, he said. “We also know at some point, one of the victims got the shotgun and hit Freeman over the head, causing the stock on the gun to break,” Johnson said. “We believe at this point there was gambling and drinking going on at the residence,” Johnson said. “At some point, a fight or disagreement started.” Investigator Jonathan Caldwell arrested Freeman on a charge of first-degree assault. He was transferred to the Limestone County Jail.

Man supplies illegal slot machines to bars for 22 years, totaling $4 million

OKLAHOMA CITY – An Oklahoma man has supplied illegal slot machines to bars and lodges across the Sooner state for years, federal authorities claim. The Oklahoman reports that the target of the criminal investigation is identified in search warrant records as 52-year-old Adlai S. Brinkley, owner of Star Amusement, Inc., in El Reno. Brinkley has not been charged. A 77-page court affidavit filed last year alleges that for the past 22 years, Brinkley has been the head of a large-scale, illegal gambling enterprise operating throughout the state. Records show that from 2009 through 2012, Brinkley and his wife deposited $40,000 to $80,000 a month in cash into their bank account. Those deposits totaled more than $4 million. Brinkley’s attorney, Mark Henricksen of El Reno, said he could not comment on the allegations.

Wife of former Romulus police chief convicted on criminal enterprise charges

Detroit—The wife of the former Romulus Police Chief Michael St. Andre was convicted today on charges that she used drug forfeiture funds belonging to the police department to buy a business and finance gambling. Sandra Vlaz-St. Andre was convicted Monday by a jury on charges of acquiring or maintaining a criminal enterprise, conspiracy to maintain a criminal enterprise and tax violations in Wayne County Circuit Court and faces sentencing by Judge Michael Hathaway on Feb. 20. Conviction on the charges carries at least 20 years in prison. Authorities say Vlaz-St. Andre and her husband used money belonging to the Romulus Police Department drug forfeiture fund to buy the Westland tanning salon Always Tan. Some of the money also was used for a trip to the casino, authorities say.

Westpac employee stole $113,000 from bank

When Westpac employee Ravinesh Singh needed money to feed his alcohol and gambling addictions, the cash was only a few clicks away. Using fake names, addresses and date of births, Singh applied online for nine different credit cards. When the cards arrived the home finance manager used his employee log-in to activate the cards. He then got unsuspecting staff members to create a PIN for cash withdrawals. From November 2011 Singh used the cards at various ATMs, usually pocketing $1000 in cash each transaction. By the time authorities charged him in November 2012, he had fleeced Westpac of more than $113,000. During his sentencing for nine counts of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception, solicitor Peter Murphy said that prior to the offences his client had “spiralled into depression, accompanied by gambling”. “He let it (the gambling) take over his life and then committed these series of offences that fuelled his lifestyle,” he told the Downing Centre Local Court.

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

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