Brief Look at Crime 06/08 – 06/14

Ventura Man Accused of Stealing $800,000 from Elderly Santa Barbara Woman

A Ventura insurance agent is accused of stealing $800,000 from a 93-year-old Santa Barbara woman after telling her he’d be investing her money for her, according to the Santa Barbara Police Department. Instead, police allege, he used the money for travel, entertainment and gambling. Detective Kristin Shamordola and the California Department of Insurance investigated the case, which found that Mele had taken pre-signed, blank personal checks from the victim with the promise that he was going to use them to make investments on her behalf, Harwood said. “Instead, Mele wrote the checks to himself and deposited the funds into his own personal checking account,” he said, adding that Mele’s bank records showed that he had invested nothing on behalf of the victim, but instead used the money for his own personal expenses, entertainment, gambling, and travel.

One charged in dice game shooting

A Vicksburg man accused of starting a shootout at a home on Buena Vista Drive where an illegal high-stakes dice game was taking place was held without bail Friday. Jonathan Jackson, 27, 207 Starlight Drive, was arrested early Friday morning and charged with shooting into an occupied dwelling, Vicksburg police Capt. Sandra Williams said. At least one other suspect in the shooting was on the lam Friday. No one was wounded in the shooting at 12:55 a.m. May 28 in the 200 block of Buena Vista Drive where the dice game was taking place, Williams has said. There were 11 people — seven men, a woman and three children — were in the home when the gunfight began, police have said.

Woman gets 2 years, 8 months in embezzlement case 

A former controller for a western Pennsylvania drilling company has been sentenced to two years and eight months in prison for her role in a $10 million embezzlement scheme. Prosecutors said 45-year-old Cheryl Brooks of Clymer stole about $557,000 from Falcon Drilling Co. and helped former chief operating officer Larry Winckler steal more than $9 million. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Melucci told the judge the thefts began when Brooks wrote a check for Falcon Drilling LLC’s former chief operating officer to help him cover a gambling debt in 2004. Those thefts escalated and, Melucci said, eventually Brooks began stealing from the company, too, by having the executive endorse forged or otherwise unauthorized company checks to her totaling $557,000 from April 2007 until November 2011.

Police Arrest 8 in Mafia-Linked Sports Betting Operation

Police in suburban New York have arrested eight people in a sports betting operation as investigators crack down on mob-run gambling and loansharking. The Journal News reports authorities said Thursday that the 10-month investigation focused on illegal high-interest street loans and an Internet off-shore gambling website. Investigators seized illegal gambling records, computers and more than $750,000 through warrants in Florida, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Those arrested are accused of collecting bets and pressuring people who borrowed money at interest rates topping 25 percent to make payments.

Gambler indicted, wanted for owing casino $500,000 in losses

A Clark County grand jury has indicted a gambler who claimed he was so drunk he lost $500,000 playing table games at the Downtown Grand casino-hotel in Las Vegas in January 2014. A warrant for Mark Allen Johnston’s arrest was issued Friday after he failed to appear at a preliminary hearing. He was indicted on felony charges of theft and passing bad checks. The indictment indicates he received casino credit via four personal checks totaling $500,000 to the casino. Johnston claimed the casino plied him with drinks. Casinos are barred from allowing visibly drunk customers to gamble. Nevada Gaming Control Board chairman A.G. Burnett says it closed an investigation into Johnston’s claims for lack of evidence.

Woman sentenced to 15 years for embezzlement 

Susan White Garcia, 44, of Newport was sentenced in Craven County Superior Court after pleading guilty to five counts of embezzlement greater than $100,000, according to information from the office of District Attorney Scott Thomas. She was accused at that time of stealing more than $5.3 million from Big Rock Sports LLC over a period of approximately four years. Garcia was employed during that time as an accounts payable supervisor and handled accounts for the company’s subsidiaries, including Henry’s Tackle LLC. She was responsible for obtaining, distributing and paying the company’s credit cards. According to Thomas, she fraudulently used the credit cards for personal purchases, including numerous online gambling purchases, personal trips and household items.

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