A Brief Look at Crime 11/07-11/13

FanDuel and DraftKings will each pay $6 million to resolve lawsuits over their advertising practices

Fantasy-sports websites FanDuel and DraftKings will each pay $6 million to resolve lawsuits in New York over their advertising practices, state attorney general Eric Schneiderman said Tuesday, resolving a year-long legal battle over the popular online games. According to the settlement agreements, both companies misled players about their services, including the advantages professional players had over other users, the likelihood of winning money and “the addictive nature” of their games. The agreements require the companies to make public, in their marketing and promotional materials, statistics about rates of user success and provide resources for gambling addiction.

Driver in deadly California bus crash didn’t brake before hitting big rig

Ana Car didn’t remember the sudden impact, only that she woke up among dead and injured passengers in a dark tour bus filled with screams of terror and agony. The retired factory worker had spent an evening gambling at a desert casino and was sound asleep when the bus heading to Los Angeles smashed into the rear of a slow-moving tractor-trailer. The crash killed the bus river and 12 passengers and injured 31 other people. “I can’t believe how many died,” she said, sobbing Monday as she recovered from bumps, bruises and a sore back. “It was so horrible. These images are going to stay in my head for life.” The National Transportation Safety Board was investigating the collision, which is one of the deadliest wrecks in California history.The NTSB said it would be on the scene for up to a week. The team planned to look into the history of the bus, its owner-driver and other circumstances, such as what the driver was doing during the four to five hours the bus was at the Red Earth Casino in the desert town of Thermal before making the 135-mile trip back to LA.

Bank of America to pay $13 million to D.C. in settlement of ‘Mother Harriette’ fraud case

Before her arrest in 2007, Harriette Walters, a midlevel D.C. tax office manager known as “Mother Harriette,” stole more than $48 million from the city, issuing fraudulent tax refunds for almost two decades. She gambled, making more than 45 trips to Las Vegas and Atlantic City. She spent more than $2 million at high-end shops such as Neiman Marcus. And she hoarded luxury watches in her Northwest Washington home. Walters was sentenced to more than 17 years in prison in 2009. But her scheme was partly facilitated by Bank of America, where a bank manager deposited almost $18 million in Walters’s refund checks. Now, eight years after D.C. sued the bank to get its money back, Bank of America is settling the suit for $13 million, the city’s attorney general said Tuesday.

Pair to plead guilty in Mohegan Sun Pocono Players’ Club card scheme

Two men who gambled on getting away with a scheme that bilked Mohegan Sun Pocono out of more than $420,000 will plead guilty. Plea agreements filed Wednesday in federal court say former casino Vice President of Player Development Robert J. Pellegrini and gambler Mark J. Heltzel will admit to their roles in the high-stakes scam, in which stolen rewards cards that were duplicated and loaded with bogus credits reeled in $422,147. Pellegrini, 50, of Fairview Township, and Heltzel, 52, of Dallas, will each plead guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, the plea agreements say. According to prosecutors, the charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and fines totalling $500,000. Poszeluznyj, prosecutors say, stole the PINs from patrons to whom she served drinks and provided them to Heltzel, with whom she had “an ongoing personal relationship.” Gamblers use the cards in slot machines and acquire points that can be used to claim free perks ranging from drinks to hotel rooms, according to the casino’s website. Heltzel then gave the PINs to Pellegrini, who duplicated the cards and loaded them with free-play credits.

Frequent fatal casino bus crashes draw attention from feds 

Fatalities involving casino buses have become so frequent that the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates major crashes, is studying them for common patterns, said Earl Weener, an NTSB board member overseeing the crash probe of the USA Holiday bus. As casinos have proliferated, buses ferrying gamblers have become a fixture. Many, like Ruiz, travel from big cities to out-of-the-way casinos and stay for as little as four hours before the buses head home. Concerned that casinos were targeting vulnerable elders in San Francisco’s Chinatown, a health care organization there tried unsuccessfully to distribute brochures about problem gambling on buses and at tour bus offices. The companies wouldn’t cooperate, so workers hand out literature on sidewalks near the buses. “For so many of our clients, that trip to the casino represents hope,” said Michael S. Liao of NICOS Chinese Health Coalition. The reality is that most of those people end up losing, and some carry huge debts. “It’s not about how much you lose, but how much you can afford to lose,” he said.

Woman convicted for scamming Missouri woman’s lottery prize

A federal jury convicted a former Kansas City woman of defrauding another woman out of hundreds of thousands of dollars from lottery winnings. Federal prosecutors say 43-year-old Freya Pearson used the money to support a gambling habit and for personal extravagances. Pearson also improperly received federal housing benefits and didn’t pay income taxes, causing a total loss of more than $640,000. She was found guilty Thursday of nine counts arising from the schemes. Prosecutors say she convinced a woman who won $2.4 million in the Missouri Lottery in 2008 to transfer money from an annuity to Pearson’s account. Pearson didn’t tell her victim that she intended to use the money for such things as gambling, buying cars and travel. She faces up to 100 years in federal prison without parole.

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

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