A Brief Look at Crime 02/22 – 02/28

FBI arrests almost every elected official in tiny Texan town for corruption

FBI agents have arrested nearly every elected official in a small town in Texas over allegations of taking bribes and helping an illegal gambling operator in exchange for favours. Just two elected officials in Crystal City, Texas were left unscathed in the probe which saw the indictment of the mayor, the city attorney, two current councilmen and one former councilman. Richard Durbin, the US Attorney for the Western District of Texas said in a statement that the officials allegedly “used their official positions to enrich themselves by soliciting and accepting bribes from persons seeking to do business in Crystal City”. FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs said: “Public corruption is one of the most insidious crimes confronting our communities today.

Buddhist monk faces March trial in embezzlement case

A Buddhist monk faces trial in March on charges he embezzled more than $200,000 from his Lafayette temple to feed a casino gambling habit. Le served as the temple’s presiding monk from 2010 through October 2014, when he stepped down amid the investigation. His indictment last year said he withdrew money from temple accounts and used it for gambling at casinos in Lake Charles and elsewhere. The indictment says Le lived and worked at the temple and earned a salary of $1,000 per month. In a court filing last year, a federal agent said Le “admitted to having a gambling problem” and told investigators that he would spend up to $10,000 playing blackjack during his frequent trips to L’Auberge Casino in Lake Charles. Le “said the church members would frown upon him even going to the casino if they knew; therefore, Le hid his gambling activity,” the agent wrote. The agent said bank records showed Le had withdrawn nearly $375,000 from temple and personal bank accounts either at L’Auberge Casino or on days when he traveled to the casino.

Lakeland woman gets 15 years in prison for stealing about $850,000 from employer

Judy Hulcher was sentenced to 15 years in prison Thursday for stealing nearly $850,000 from her employer, Payne Air/Conditioning & Heating in Lakeland, over four years. In this file photo taken Dec. 2, 2015, Judy Hulcher is seen during her trial in Circuit Judge Reinaldo Ojeda’s courtroom at the county courthouse in Bartow. Hulcher, 58, of Lakeland, was the company’s treasurer during the time she was taking the money, and Circuit Judge Reinaldo Ojeda said that’s what bothered him most about the case. “You were a corporate officer, a treasurer,” he said Thursday. “Almost 100 people depended on you to steer the company’s finances, and you completely let them down. The only thing that caused this to stop was essentially getting caught.” Hulcher’s lawyer, Ron Toward, said she spent the money to satisfy her gambling addiction, which was encouraged through the state’s efforts to market the lottery.

Banker gets prison term for faked robbery in Bethalto

[T]he former manager of the Liberty Bank here, was sentenced Friday to more than three years in federal prison for staging a $280,000 robbery from his own business. Liebheit, of Moro, admitted in U.S. District Court in East St. Louis that he called police on Dec. 13, 2014, to report that a masked man forced him into the bank at gunpoint before opening time and took the cash. The story fell apart after Bethalto police spotted Liebheit’s own truck leaving the bank after the robbery. He had recruited the “robber,” Eugene Babcock, and the pair used a BB gun to make the holdup look real, prosecutors said. Liebheit also falsified records on a customer account, they said. Liebheit was sentenced to to 41 months in prison and ordered to repay $140,862. He had pleaded guilty to two counts of theft by a bank officer or employee and one count of making false bank entries. Court documents say he had “issues with gambling and significant debts.”

Ex-NFL player charged with stealing money from Ohio groups 

A former NFL player withdrew hundreds of thousands of dollars from the account of an inner-city Cleveland charity to satisfy Las Vegas gambling debts and to pay personal expenses, according to charges filed Tuesday in federal court. The charges against Reggie Rucker, 68, are contained in an information, which indicates Rucker has agreed to plead guilty. Rucker was a wide receiver who played 12 years in the NFL from 1970 to 1981, including seven seasons with the Cleveland Browns. He’s charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of making a false statement to an FBI agent. Rucker was executive director for Amer-I-Can Cleveland, a nonprofit group that is an outgrowth of an organization created by Browns Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown in Los Angeles. Rucker also played a lead role with Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance, a coalition of groups that employs outreach workers to quell violence between rival gangs and factions in Cleveland. Amer-I-Can Cleveland is a registered nonprofit; Peacemakers Alliance is not. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Cleveland said Tuesday that the total loss is estimated at around $100,000, but he wouldn’t elaborate.

Former executive accused of embezzling $144k from Miracles Club, gambling non-profit’s money

The former executive director of the Miracles Club has been indicted on accusations that he embezzled $144,000 from the Northeast Portland nonprofit, then gambled away much of the money at the Spirit Mountain Casino. Herman Cordell Bryant, 59, was indicted Feb. 1 on first-degree aggravated theft and other charges related to the theft of money from the Miracles Club, which helps recovering drug addicts and alcoholics maintain their sobriety. Portland Police Detective Brian Sitton said the thefts came to light after a Miracles Club board member reported suspicious financial activity to the Oregon Department of Justice’s Charitable Activities Section. The department and Portland police investigated. Bryant was spending the money at the casino southwest of Portland, Sitton said.

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