A Brief Look at Crime 6/27 – 7/3

$1.6M fraud scheme leads to plea of guilty 

A Fort Smith man stole more than $1.6 million from insurance and annuity policyholders to satisfy a gambling addiction, federal court documents show. Samuel Bowron Phillips, 41, pleaded guilty Thursday to one count each of mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. He was charged in March in a 22-count indictment accusing him of stealing $1,634,487.89 from 21 victims over five years. As part of the plea agreement, Phillips agreed to pay back the money he stole and forfeit two silver bars, each weighing 10 troy ounces. The plea agreement said Phillips, who had been licensed in 1999 to sell annuities and insurance policies in Arkansas, admitted to setting up two sham companies. He made up a name, Clint L. Martin, and rented post office boxes in Fort Smith and Barling to receive mail for the two bogus companies. 

Gambling Commission orders Betfred to pay £800,000 

The bookmaker Betfred has agreed to an £800,000 settlement after accepting stolen cash from a “VIP” customer, who was allegedly offered free drinks and day trips to encourage him to keep betting. Betfred, based in Gibraltar, was found to have failed to meet its obligations on social responsibility and the prevention of money laundering, after taking thousands of pounds from the convicted thief Matthew Stevens. The accountant pleaded guilty to two counts of theft earlier this year, after funnelling cash out of the business he worked for in order to fund his gambling habit. The settlement comes just a day after a BBC investigation claimed that staff at the high-street bookmaker Coral were told to offer customers perks – including drinks and free bets – to keep them betting on “crack cocaine” fixed-odds betting terminals.

Fight over gambling winnings leaves 1 shot in Jefferson County 

An argument over gambling winnings ended in gunfire Sunday night in northwest Jefferson County. Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies responded just before 6 p.m. to a report of a person being shot. The shooting happened in the 1100 block of Pebble Creek Parkway in Forestdale. When deputies arrived on the scene, they found a 22-year-old man wounded. He was taken to a local hospital, said Sgt. Jack Self, and is expected to recover. Information at the scene is that the victim and another man were gambling outside of one of the apartments. The victim and the suspect got in to an argument over winnings, Self said, and as the victim walked away the suspect pulled out a handgun and shot him. 

Jefferson County couple stole $300,000 after discovering River City Casino glitch

A couple from Jefferson County discovered a technical glitch at River City Casino and used it to steal more than $300,000, according to charges filed Friday. Eileen R. Sheldon, 60, and Daniel T. Sheldon, 61, were each charged with felony stealing. The couple lives in the 2100 block of Windemere Drive near Arnold. According to charging documents, the couple realized that there was a system error at the casino that allowed them to download unearned winnings with their mychoice account loyalty cards. The system would void the transaction when the couple tried to download the winnings from their respective cards, but funds were credited anyway due to the system glitch. Eileen Sheldon discovered the error first, and between October and December 2014, she made almost 3,000 downloads for a total value of $582,353, according to charging documents. She redeemed $216,892 in cash. Video surveillance captured Eileen Sheldon making many of the transactions. 

Poplar Bluff man sentenced to life in prison for murder of St. Louis hotel night manager  

A man convicted of robbing the night manager of a St. Louis hotel of $97 and killing him was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without parole, plus 40 years. Joseph Bowens, 45, of Poplar Bluff, Mo., was found guilty in April of first-degree murder and robbery in the death of Scott Knopfel, 50, of St. Louis, during a robbery. The jury also found him guilty on two counts of armed criminal action. Life without parole is the mandatory sentence for a first-degree murder conviction if prosecutors elect not to seek the death penalty. Circuit Judge David Dowd accepted Assistant Circuit Attorney Mary Pat Carl’s recommendation to add 40 years to the sentence for what he described as a “brutal” and “senseless” crime. Said Carl: “That $97 was worth more to (Bowens) than this man’s life.” Security cameras captured the robbery and killing at the Drury Inn & Suites hotel near Interstate 44 and Hampton Avenue on Jan. 15, 2015. The shooting happened just before 3 a.m. Three shots were fired, and Knopfel was struck in the chest and face. Bowens was captured a few days later. Carl said Tuesday that Bowens had been at the Lumière Place casino downtown before coming to the hotel but authorities don’t know if he lost money there or if that could have factored into his decision to rob the Drury Inn. 

Woman’s killing during cockfight robbery leads to 3 indictments

It was a cockfight held on a street in Newark’s North Ward on a June night nearly two years, and three men planned to rob all the people who were watching, authorities say. However, one of wouldbe robbers fired a gun, killing a woman in the crowd, authorities said.Edwab, who is prosecuting the case, said Thomas fired the fatal shot. Authorities said the shooting occurred about 3:30 a.m. on June 29, 2014. They said Cruz was taken to University Hospital where she died about an hour later. Thomas now faces a 10-count indictment for charges of conspiracy, attempted robbery, felony murder, manslaughter, attempted burglary and weapons offenses. Diaz was indicted on seven counts, including felony murder, attempted robbery, attempted burglary and weapons offenses. Ortiz faces indictment for conspiracy to commit robbery, conspiracy to commit burglary and animal cruelty charges, authorities said.

Man used ID theft, $2 million in stolen cash to fuel lavish lifestyle 

He traveled, gambled and had an affinity for shiny objects: a Rolex watch, two Maseratis and a bright orange Jaguar convertible. He also bought a luxury downtown Miami condo in a $775,000 all-cash deal, investigators say. But Gerti Muho’s high-flying lifestyle was fueled by lies, stolen identities and more than $2 million in stolen cash, federal prosecutors say. His adventure came to an end when, after spending a few months on the lam, he was captured by federal agents at his mother’s home in Queens, N.Y., authorities said. They recently moved him to the Broward County Jail, and he will remain locked up until his trial. Muho, 32, had left South Florida in January, records show*,* after he was arrested on relatively minor state charges, accused of using someone else’s identity to apply for an $800 payday loan at an Amscot store. Gerti Muho, 32, is accused of masterminding a string of frauds in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. The former hedge-fund manager is jailed in Broward County pending trial.

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