Brief Look at Crime 02/10 – 02/16

NY cockfighting ring raid rescues over 3,000 bir

NEW YORK –  More than 3,000 birds were rescued in a three-county cockfighting takedown in New York this weekend that resulted in nine felony arrests, according to the state Attorney General’s Office. In a statement released Sunday night, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said it was the largest cockfighting takedown in New York state and among the largest in U.S. history. “Operation Angry Birds” simultaneously targeted locations in Queens, Brooklyn and Ulster County with assistance from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Ulster County Sheriff’s office, Schneiderman said. “Cockfighting is a cruel, abusive and barbaric practice that tortures animals, endangers the health and safety of the public and is known to facilitate other crimes,” Schneiderman said. At the cockfights, spectators were charged admission fees and an additional fee for a seat within the secret basement location that housed the all-night fights, authorities said. Alcohol was sold without a permit and owners and spectators placed bets on the fights with individual wagers reaching $10,000.

Man attempts suicide after getting into debt to ‘look rich’ in front of relatives

A 32-year-old labor contractor in Fuzhou, Fujian province attempted suicide after he racked up 110,000 yuan in credit card debts to ‘make himself look rich’ in front of his family members over the Spring Festival, Strait Metropolis Daily reported this weekend. The man, surnamed Yang, decided to take advances from his four credit cards so that he would look good in front of his family and friends when he saw them over the Lunar New Year holiday, according to ECNS.com. Yang spent most of the money on gambling with his friends and spent the rest on gifts for his family members. He said he didn’t realize how much he was spending until after the holiday when he received a message from the bank.  The man, unable to borrow more money, knew he couldn’t afford to pay the debt and felt so helpless that he chose to commit suicide.

Feds add more criminal charges to Las Vegas high roller’s $193 million tab

High-rolling Las Vegas businessman Ramon DeSage took another pounding Tuesday from federal authorities. DeSage, 63, was charged in a new federal indictment adding dozens of felony counts in what prosecutors say was a massive scheme to defraud investors of roughly $190 million. Two of his employees — Southern California accountant Peter Akaragian, 61, and Las Vegas bookkeeper Gary Parkinson, 43 — also were charged with DeSage in a scheme to help him use his luxury gifts supply business on the Strip to hide millions of dollars from the Internal Revenue Service. DeSage, Akaragian and Parkinson all are facing one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. DeSage also is facing 51 other counts, including 19 counts of wire fraud, 28 counts of money laundering and 4 counts of tax evasion. This is the second superseding indictment in six months against DeSage, a Lebanese-born entrepreneur with both business and gambling ties to Las Vegas casinos.

 Man Killed by Cockfighting Rooster

Jose Ochoa died after a rooster stabbed him in the leg during an illegal cockfight near Tulare County, Calif. The rooster had a razor-like knife attached to its leg, which the birds use to fight each other to the death, notes LA Weekly. Ochoa may have lost too much blood by fleeing the police and waiting to be taken to the Delano Regional Medical Center. “I have never seen this type of incident,” Sgt. Martin King told the Bakersfield Californian. “People have been known to bleed out from those injuries if medical attention is not obtained immediately.” Ochoa has been charged previously for training roosters for cockfights, but he and other participants fled when police arrived. Police have found several dead roosters but have not arrested anyone yet. “It’s pretty rare, but I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often considering the knives they put on those birds,” said John Goodwin, director of animal cruelty policy for the Humane Society. “It’s not a surprise that somebody got killed.”

Biologist Pleads Guilty in Yurok Embezzlement Case   

A local biologist pleaded guilty today to a single federal count of conspiring to embezzle funds from an Indian tribal organization stemming from the bilking of nearly $1 million in federal funds from the Yurok Tribe over a three-year period beginning in 2007, tribal spokesman Matt Mais confirmed. According to court documents in the case, Mad River Biologists submitted more than 75 false invoices between 2007 and 2010. Under the scheme, Raymond would then cut checks from the tribe and LeValley would funnel the money back to him, less 20 percent taken off the top. Raymond faced a maximum of five years in prison, but received a lesser sentence, in part, due to his cooperation with a federal investigation that led to LeValley’s being charged in the case. Raymond, whose attorney claimed he committed the theft to support drug and gambling addictions, was also ordered to repay $852,000 that he stole from the tribe.

Foster agency director pleads guilty to embezzling $450,000

The former director of a Riverside foster agency pleaded guilty Tuesday, Feb. 13, to embezzling almost a half-million dollars in public funds intended for foster children. Benn was charged in August with six felony counts and money laundering. The plea deal shaved off up to two years from her maximum potential sentence. As part of her plea agreement, Benn accepted an enhancement of committing multiple felonies between 2004 and 2009. Authorities began investigating Benn after a May 2009 audit of the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services found that about $1.2 million that the state Department of Public Social Services had paid to Family Hope could not be unaccounted for. Additional expenses included shopping trips to New York; trips to the Monte Carlo and Tropicana hotels in Las Vegas; and spending at multiple casinos, including Pechanga, Soboba and San Manuel, according to the affidavit.

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