A Brief Look at Crime 01/23 – 01/29

Murder case at Miccosukee casino a test for tribal police, state prosecutors

From suicides to overdoses to accidental drownings, the Miccosukee Police Department has investigated more than two dozen deaths over the decades. But the case of Fernando Duarte, a former U.S. Army Ranger shot to death on Christmas night in the parking lot of the tribe’s West Miami-Dade casino, is the first homicide on the agency’s books. One important element distinguishes this murder case from previous criminal investigations that have created friction between the state and tribe. Neither the victim or suspects are Miccosukee. The tribe has long defended its rights to govern independently and have bristled at authority of outsiders, including the federal government. The Miccosukee are embroiled in a years-long battle with the IRS, which says the tribe owes more than $262 million in unpaid taxes on gambling proceeds, and an additional $441 million in penalties and interest. In the late 1990s, the tribe refused to honor subpoenas on the reservation after tribal member Kirk Billie was arrested on charges of drowning his two children in a canal just off reservation land. Tribal elders “forgave” Billie, but he was later convicted in Miami-Dade circuit court and sent to state prison.

As an Indian tribe fought over casino money, leaders bled its bank accounts, feds say

Revenue from the casino’s 840 slot machines, blackjack tables and 24-hour restaurants is estimated at $100 million a year, according to the Sacramento Bee Every person in the 300-member tribe reaps a direct economic benefit from the casino — about $54,000 a year for each adult member. Casino money paid for a $3 million jet for the tribe, and, at one point, more than 10 pounds of gold. But the sudden bounty also led to a decade of infighting — at one point, literally, with military-grade weapons — among tribal members. And as tribe members fought, a federal indictment filed last week says, the people hired to safeguard the tribe’s wealth bled the tribe’s bank accounts. A family that worked for the tribe was accused last week of embezzling nearly $6 million, according to a federal indictment, using stolen funds to live what a band leader called “a life of obscene luxury.” “They and their co-conspirators used vicious and callous methods of intimidation and coercion to maintain access to the Tribe’s money, millions of which they stole in order to live a life of obscene luxury, while services to Tribal members went unfunded and Tribe members lived in fear of economic retaliation,” tribal Chairman Andrew Alejandre said in a statement. As the scheme unraveled, the indictment accuses the trio of lying to federal agents, fabricating documents and lying on tax returns to conceal years of theft.

Former principal charged with embezzling school funds sentenced to jail

A former middle school principal who pleaded guilty to embezzling school funds will be spending the next 30 days in jail for her crime. “She took $97,362 from the school. That’s two to three times what the average Jackson family makes a year,” said Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Nick Mehalco. “I understand her personal struggles put her in a place where she sought safety in a casino, but it’s one thing to have a gambling problem with your own money and it’s another when the money is earmarked for kids.” JPS officials reported the alleged embezzlement to police in September 2015 after audits of Parkside’s finances turned up irregularities and discrepancies in receipts and checks, JPS Superintendent Jeff Beal has said.

SugarHouse fined $100K for underage gambling by athletes from nationally ranked universities

Pennsylvania gambling regulators have fined SugarHouse Casino $100,000 for five incidents of underage gambling involving 10 individuals last year. At a regularly monthly meeting Wednesday, SugarHouse’s general manager, Wendy Hamilton, told members of the state Gaming Control Board that the Fishtown casino had “became popular with athletes from nationally ranked universities” in the area, but she did not identify them. The University of Pennsylvania was identified as one of the schools in a 16-page consent order. The second school was not identified. SugarHouse told the gaming board that it has started using new scanners that are better at picking up fake IDs, and that it has instructed security guards to ask tougher questions of individuals with suspicious IDs. Instead of just asking the individuals to recite the address and birthdate on the ID, a guard might ask the person what their Zodiac sign is, Hamilton said. The $100,000 fine for SugarHouse is among the largest levied for underage gambling by the gaming board. It is the biggest in the state since 2011.

Fort Smith insurer handed five years for million dollar gambling theft

Samuel Bowron Phillips was sentenced in federal court Wednesday to five years in prison for stealing nearly $1.6 million from insurance and annuity policyholders, which he frittered away in casinos to feed a gambling addiction. In pronouncing the sentence Wednesday, U.S. District Judge P.K. Holmes III ordered Phillips to pay back $1,563,380 he took from the 20 victims in the case. Holmes said victims’ losses ranged from $2,000 to more than $200,000. “Virtually all funds illegally obtained by Mr. Phillips went into casinos in Oklahoma,” Rex Chronister, Phillips’ attorney, wrote in a sentencing memorandum. The memorandum said Phillips had $33,000 in credit card debt.

Woman ‘mercilessly’ exploited employer and brought firm to knees with £1.3million theft

A law firm boss told how her business was brought almost to its knees by her trusted personal assistantwho stole almost £1.3million pounds in three years. Most of the money taken by Sandra Ribeiro from Residential Lawyers Ltd of Cirencester was frittered away by her partner on Bingo and onlinegambling, Gloucester Crown Court was told. Claire Williams, director of Residential Lawyers Ltd, told the court the scale of the theft by Portuguese born Ribeiro, 41, had badly hit the firm’s reputation, delayed her retirement plans, and increased her insurance costs by more than £50,000 a year. She used to employ 12 people in the specialist conveyancing firm but that number has been halved as a direct result of the thefts, she said.

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