Monthly Archives: May 2015

Tampa Tribune joins Florida Mayors and Others in Call for Renewed Seminole Compact

Casino Watch Focus has reported that multiple Florida Mayors have joined to campaign against gambling expansion measures, including being in support of a renewed Seminole Compact that would continue to allow exclusive rights to the various gambling table games in exchange for revenues. The last effort to renew the Compact was by way of legislation, but the session came to an abrupt close three days early due to a budget standoff centering around Medicaid. Another June session is likely given a budget must be passed, and Now the Tampa Tribune is joining others who view a renewed compact as a way to stem the tide of expanded gambling in Florida. An online source explains: 

The Tampa Tribune has called for state legislators to renew their billion-dollar deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, an agreement that enables the tribe to exclusively offer blackjack at five of its seven resorts, including the two highly profitable Hard Rock casinos one of which is just east of Tampa at the intersection of two major highways.

The paper’s editorial points out that the agreement has benefitted the state to the tune of more than $1 billion “while preventing the spread of high stakes gambling elsewhere in Florida.”

Legislators will return to Tallahassee in June to work on the budget and the current deal with the tribe is scheduled to expire in July. Action on the Seminole compact was lost in the “ugly meltdown” at the end of the recent regulator session.

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


Brief Look at Crime 05/18 – 05/24

Miami Ex-Officer Gets Two Years’ Prison For Gambling Bribes 

A former Miami police officer has been sentenced to two years in prison for accepting thousands of dollars in bribes from an illegal gambling operation. A federal judge last week also sentenced 24-year-old Jerry Sutherland to perform 150 hours of community service and pay a $2,000 fine. Sutherland must forfeit $3,400 he was paid in bribes. He pleaded guilty to extortion. Court documents show that while working for the Miami Police Department, Sutherland accepting 10 bribe payments from the gambling operation. Sutherland admitted providing protection for the operation, arranging for charges to be dropped against one of its employees and increasing police presence at a rival gambling house to discourage customers.

Feds: Man admits staging $200,000+ robbery with Bethalto bank manager 

A man from Moro, Ill. pleaded guilty to bank robbery Wednesday and admitted staging a robbery with the financially struggling manager of a Bethalto bank, federal prosecutors said. Eugene Ray Babcock, 58, claimed in his plea agreement that Matthew Liebheit, a manager of the Liberty Bank branch in Bethalto, approached him with a plan to rob his own bank. On Dec. 13, the pair met at a Schnucks store near the bank. Babcock, using Liebheit’s pickup truck, followed Liebheit to the bank, where he pretended to force him into the bank with an Airsoft BB gun, Babcock’s plea says. Liebheit had told police and the FBI that he’d been approached in the parking lot by an armed man and forced to open the vault, then pistol-whipped and duct-taped. His story started falling apart when police pulled surveillance tapes and spotted Liebheit’s truck leaving the bank. He claimed it had broken down, and he left it at a supermarket with the keys in the ignition, Babcock’s plea says. Investigators also learned that Liebheit had “issues with gambling and significant debts,” Babcock’s plea says.

Munster accountant charged in 34-count federal indictment

A Munster accountant accused by the feds last fall of stealing from a client to gamble at local casinos is facing 34 new federal charges, U.S. Attorney David Capp announced Thursday. A federal grand jury returned a 34-count superseding indictment charging Jack Weichman with nine counts of bank fraud, 14 counts of bankruptcy fraud, two counts of money laundering, four counts of wire fraud and five counts of filing false federal income tax returns, court records show. The indictment alleges Weichman used the lines of credit to pay off gambling debts at local casinos.

Shore business owner sentenced for $7.2M fraud

Federal agents raided the home of an Eastern Shore business owner last year hoping to find evidence of identity theft and tax fraud.”I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” said Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Adriana Mirarchi, who worked with the IRS for the investigation. “I don’t think any of us thought it would be quite so well organized, and I don’t think any of us thought she would really have everything she had.” Linda Avila, 50, was sentenced Wednesday to 12 years in federal prison for her role in a $7.2 million fraud scheme, which involved the filing of more than 1,700 fraudulent tax returns over the span of at least six years. “This is a massive criminal enterprise,” said U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson, who went on to refer to Avila as a “master criminal.”Stoker said it appears most of the money paid for a heavy gambling habit. He noted that she and her boyfriend regularly visited Dover Downs in Delaware and Ocean Downs in Maryland. One of the casinos indicated she visited 281 times in a three-year period.

Facebook Share Scammer Found Guilty Of Bilking Family Office 

Troy Stratos, who lied his way into the wealthiest circles in Silicon Valley, used the frenzy for pre-IPO Facebook Inc. shares to bilk investors out of $11.25 million, a federal jury in California concluded. Instead, Stratos spent the money paying off old gambling debts and buying a small fleet of luxury cars, the U.S. Justice Department alleged in its 2013 indictment. Stratos’s scam was exposed when he was arrested in a Los Angeles luxury condominium on Dec. 20, 2011, on charges in a separate scheme. In that one, the government alleges that Stratos stole $7 million from Nicole Murphy, ex-wife of comedian Eddie Murphy, after convincing her to let him invest her divorce settlement. Stratos is scheduled to go on trial in that case on Oct. 5.

Macau casino-related crime rises as gambling profits tumble

Forced collection of debts, arson and document forgery crimes are all on the increase in the former Portuguese enclave. Macau has been hit by a sharp rise in casino-linked crime as gaming revenues nosedive amid Beijing’s drive to clean up the world’s biggest gambling hub, putting the cash-squeeze on its notorious criminal underbelly. Security chiefs in the former Portuguese enclave say the number of illegal detentions – the bulk of which involve forced collection of gaming debts by triads – almost doubled to 67 in the first three months of this year, from 37 in the same period last year. There has also been a surge in the number of arson attacks, document forgery cases and what the authorities describe as “crimes jeopardising the territory”.

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


Florida District Court of Appeals to Hear Key Gambling Expansion Slot Machine License Case

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the various ways Florida has faced gambling expansion this year. From full-blown, mega-resort, Vegas-style casinos to simple slot expansion referendums, Florida has been facing gambling expansion pressures on all levels. Now, the courts will represent a skate in gambling expansion as a key slots expansion issue reaches the Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeals. The issue centers on whether or not Gadsden County has the ability to issue a slots license. Grenta Gaming, a pari-mutuel facility says yes, and the Florida Attorney Generals Office says no. The Saint Peters Blog explains:

The Tallahassee-based *1st District Court of Appeals* will hear arguments Wednesday afternoon regarding whether or not the Gadsden County pari-mutuel facility *Gretna Gaming* should be issued a state license to operate new slot machines.

Blocking its implementation is an opinion issued by the office of Attorney General *Pam Bondi*, who ruled that the referendum contradicts state law.

In a January 2012 letter, Bondi said the referendum was “non-binding,” because the operative department that would implement the slots “is not authorized to issue a slot machine license to a pari-mutuel facility in a county which … holds a countywide referendum to approve such machines, absent a statutory or constitutional provision.” 

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


Brief Look at Crime 05/11 – 05/17

Syracuse man lost money gambling before shooting 83-year-old victim 

Syracuse Police say a suspected shooter lost a considerable amount of money gambling at a home on Tallman Street before he shot an 83-year-old victim early in the morning on April 7. They say 23-year-old Charquan Edwards of Will Court had been at the home for several hours playing cards before the incident at 6:08 a.m. According to police, he shot the man in the twice in the torso before stealing cash and running away. The victim is still in the hospital.

Ex-Navy SEAL sentenced in San Diego for investment fraud 

A former U.S. Navy SEAL has been sentenced in San Diego for bilking people out of more than $1 million in an investment fraud scheme. Prosecutors contend the 44-year-old Mullaney cheated at least 13 people — many of them former Navy SEALs — by convincing them he was using their investment money to make loans. Prosecutors say he actually spent it on a lavish lifestyle that included luxury cars and a Las Vegas gambling habit. Mullaney was homeless when he was arrested in 2012 but he’s been ordered to pay victims nearly $1.2 million in restitution.

Ex-official who stole $300K from Little League sentenced 

A former treasurer of the Clinton Valley Little League was sentenced today to five years of probation after she pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $100,000 from the youth sports organization. Karen Dimitrie, 63, of Clinton Township also is to pay $165,000 in restitution with a $3,000 payment due June 15 and $750 to be paid each month starting in July. She is not to have a job that deals with money, is to have no contact with the Little League or anyone affiliated with it and is to “not step foot into” a casino while on probation, Macomb County Circuit Court Judge James Maceroni ordered during her sentencing.

City treasurer resigns amid accusations she stole nearly $500,000 to play lottery 

South Amherst Treasurer Kimberly Green resigned amid accusations she misused city funds. She was released from the Lorain County Jail on Tuesday after police arrested her for stealing. Green is accused of writing checks made out to her totaling over $470,000. Police Sgt. Michael Harvan said his investigation revealed she spent the money on lottery tickets. “We turned up a large cache of lottery deposits, winnings and claims. It looks like she was re-gambling the money that she stole and won,” Harvan said.

Feds get $2.7 million forfeited from illegal Ironman lotteries 

A Tampa company that runs the Ironman World Championship triathlon has agreed to forfeit more than $2.7 million it earned in entrance lotteries for the annual event since 2013. World Triathlon Corp., based in the Rocky Point area of Tampa, violated state and federal gambling laws by charging athletes for a chance to win the opportunity to compete in the championship, held every October in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, according to complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Tampa. The $2.7 million settlement included receipts from the 2013, 2014, and 2015 championship lotteries and two other specialized lotteries in 2014.

Gambler stole £500,000 to feed habit

He had burned his way through hundreds of thousands of pounds in just eight weeks on Internet sites including Betway and Jackpotjoy – with nothing to show at the end, police said. In just one day he had transferred £50,000 from the business’s account into an online betting account. Collinson, of Hull Road, Withernsea, who was sentenced at Hull Crown Court yesterday, had admitted a charge of theft by employee at an earlier hearing. He will appear at Hull Crown Court later this year for a confiscation hearing. “He was fairly dishevelled and emotional. He was remorseful – very much so after being interviewed. He was glad to get it off his chest. He has realised he has a massive gambling habit and it is ruining his life.”

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


Senate Bill to Renew Seminole Compact Dies, Tribe Urges Good Faith Negotiations

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing dealings by the Florida Governor and Legislature to come to a new agreement with the Seminole Nation regarding exclusive gambling games in the state. With the July 31st deadline quickly approaching, the Legislature seemed as good a place to push for a resolution. However, with the recent early shutdown of the legislative session, the bill looking to do just that died. As the Sun Sentinel online explainsThe Seminole Nation calls for good faith negotiations: 

The Seminole Tribe of Florida is accusing the state of ignoring federal law by not negotiating a new gambling agreement. Tribal Council Chairman James E. Billie sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli on Friday requesting that the state obey the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which was created in 1988 to regulate gambling on Indian lands.

“We trust the state will fully comply with its obligation under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to commence good faith negotiations with the Seminole Tribe of Florida,” Billie wrote.

On Tuesday, Crisafulli shut down the House three days early, citing irreconcilable differences with the Senate over Medicare funding. All unpassed bills apparently died with it, including Bradley’s proposal, which had been laden with amendments while in the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries.

Additionally, the Tribe has official set in motion a 180 day negotiation period that prompts action by the State or risk the issue go to court. The Sun Sentinel continues:

The tribe’s letter also points out that by their formally renewing the request for negotiations, a 180-day period begins before the U.S. district courts assume jurisdiction of the agreement, according to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

That means the U.S. district courts could take over negotiations with the state on Oct. 28. The blackjack portion of the compact expires July 31, but the tribe has a 90-day grace period, which runs out Oct. 29.

Its possible that the Florida Legislature will reexamine the issue as special session is likely to finalize the budget and these revenues are a part of the overall budget.

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


Brief Look at Crime 05/04 – 05/10

‘Gambler who lost at mahjong killed winner’ 

A GAMBLER beat a man to death with a brick and stole back money he had earlier lost to him, prosecutors in Songjiang District claimed yesterday. The accused, an unemployed man surnamed Shen, has been arrested for murder and robbery. According to prosecutors, Shen withdrew 2,000 yuan (US$322) on September 11 last year to gamble on mahjong but lost most of the cash. Shen is said to have followed a man, surnamed Wu, who had won the money from him and asked for a lift on his moped. Wu gave him a lift but on the journey Shen attacked him, striking him repeatedly on the head, it is claimed. Shen allegedly took 2,000 yuan and a gold chain from Wu’s body, before dumping the body, along with Wu’s cellphone and moped, in a river.

VA official spent $300k on stripper sex, gambling 

A former federal employee admitted embezzling about $150,000 from a Veterans Administration retail store and blowing the cash on stripper sex, prostitutes, and gambling sprees, according to the Justice Department. Glenn Alan Bates schemed to steal money collected at a VA retail store —or canteen —he managed in Ann Arbor, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday in federal court. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison. According to court records, Bates told investigators he spent part of the money at casinos in Indianapolis and Battle Creek.

3 Plead Guilty to Running International Sports Betting Ring

Three men charged with running an illegal international sports gambling ring that made millions have pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy in San Diego. The U.S. attorney’s office says brothers Jan and Erik Portocarrero and Joseph Barrios entered the pleas Friday. Each faces up to 20 years in federal prison. Prosecutors say the brothers ran an internet and telephone gambling enterprise called “Macho Sports” for more than a decade from a headquarters in Lima, Peru. Barrios was a major bookmaker for the operation.

Judge shows mercy to Minnesota woman who stole from veterans 

In 2009, Patricia Winstead wrote a thesis in her social work program at the University of St. Thomas on the problems veterans face in VA homes, including anger and depression caused by financial difficulties. Unknown to anyone, she was simultaneously stealing from vulnerable veterans as a money manager handling the financial affairs of veterans deemed incapable of overseeing their money themselves. On Friday, U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery sentenced Winstead, 42, to a “significant downward departure” – one year and a day – for stealing more than $292,000 in 198 incidents from 24 veterans over a five-year period. She also was ordered to make restitution. In a memorandum prepared by her lawyer, Winstead asked for probation, blaming a gambling addiction, and said she had completed treatment and had not gambled for years. She finally decided she could no longer continue to steal and gamble.

Anaheim man’s gambling addiction fueled $3.3 million theft

An Anaheim man who embezzled millions from an Irvine company to feed a gambling addiction was sentenced Monday to three years in federal prison. Steven Hagstrom, 38, pleaded guilty last year to embezzling an estimated $3.3 million from Sentinel Offender Services, where he worked as a controller. He admitted to gambling with the money at casinos in California and Las Vegas. In a courtroom at the Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana on Monday, Judge David O. Carter ordered Hagstrom to serve 37 months in prison and pay more than $2 million in restitution to Sentinel and an insurance company, having already paid back the rest of the money he stole.

CSI: Cyber’ is Raising the Stakes to Expose ‘Seedy’ Online Poker World Tonight

The latest “CSI” spinoff, “CSI: Cyber” goes right for the jugular as it tackles the “seedy” world of online poker. Whether this episode of “CSI: Cyber” entitled “Raising the Stakes” is based on a true story remains to be seen….but we get the gist. “The online gaming world is a haven for cyber-criminals,” Special Agent Avery Ryan, played by Patricia Arquette, says in the trailer. FBI agents can be seen rushing a home likely located in the Southeastern United States. Arquette’s character is seen in the trailer asking to have $250,000 to play online poker, which would be impossible to deposit, even over a prolonged period of time and even at the most stringently regulated of sites such as those based throughout Europe.

 

 

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


UPDATE: Florida Gambling Expansion by way of Greyhound Decoupling Ends with Abrupt End to Legislative Session

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to expand gambling in Florida by decoupling, or removing the need to have greyhound races in order to provide slot machines and other gambling. The results of not requiring dog racing anymore would be to essentially allow full standing casinos, which may believe would lead to wide spread harm to Florida families. The bill advancing this plan was unable to pass due to in part to the Florida legislature abruptly adjourning because of a Medicaid budget impasse. The Times Union online reports:

The annual session of the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature crashed to a halt Tuesday as the House adjourned three days early because of a budget impasse with the Senate over Medicaid expansion.

Bills covering everything from tax cuts to gambling and medical marijuana died as a result.

The abrupt showdown also raises the possibility of a government shutdown if the House and Senate cannot agree to a new state budget by June 30.

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